dai's recipes

(tweeting what i'm eating)

„Og sig da også,” fortsatte han, „at De ved og forstår at jeg i fremtiden, så længe jeg lever,
bestandig vil være hos Dem. Hver aften vil jeg – om ikke i det kød, som intet betyder,
så i ånden – sætte mig til middagsbordet med Dem, ganske som i aften.
For jeg har i aften lært, kære søster, at i denne vor skønne verden er alt muligt.”

"And," he continued, "I shall be with you every day that is left to me.
Every evening I shall sit down, if not in the flesh, which means nothing,
in spirit, which is all, to dine with you, just like tonight.
For tonight I have learned, dear sister, that in this world anything is possible."

(Isak Dinesen: Babette's Feast)

indexy thing

Corned beef hash
Thai curry
Locatelli's tuna pasta
Kimchi bokum
Alanis Morissette
Chili con carne
Muc don thit
Ma mère l'oye
Merluza a la vasca
Sausage and mash — a sonnet
Spag bol as she is made
Fish finger buttie by Heston Blumincheek
Broad bean and pancetta risotto
Caesar salad
Laab nuea
Friendly kakapo
Poor man's beef stroganoff
Khao neow mamuang dailo
Pinchos morunos
Saddo's supper
Dai's secret po'boy recipe
Kippenwaterzooi met stamppot
Omelette Arnold Bennett
Sausages in cider
Filets de limande chaim soutine
Blancs de pigeon, "Nu sur patins à roulettes"
Pez espada en amarillo — Swordfish in yellow
Tétras Iphigénie — Grouse Iphigenea
Noisettes of lamb Reform
'Off-key' lime pie
Mole poblano
Muc xào cài
Rugby Balls (Polpette 'Italia v Galles')
Lapin de Tocqueville
Berenjenas con queso

Of course, if you'd rather go out to eat you could
check out some restaurant reviews

(all recipes for Billy-no-mates servings — multiply up if you actually have friends)

Corned beef hash

  tin of corned beef (UK style)
  potato or two
  mustard, tomato ketchup, dried mixed herbs

Keep the beef in the fridge so it cuts up easier. When needed, cut into half inch cubes. If using a large tin, I reserve a few slices for lunch. Call me a pleb, but I love corned beef and ketchup sandwiches in a crusty white bread.
Peel and chop potatoes into half inch or so chunks and parboil them for five to ten minutes, until just softening.
Peel the onion and cut that up too. I often find half an onion is plenty, so I save the rest in the fridge.

Heat some oil in a heavy metal pan (I have a great cast iron 7" skillet which sees most kitchen action here in the Abode of Stone). Fry the onion pieces for a few minutes, then add the meat. After a few minutes stirring that, add the spuds. The meat will start to break up and everything gets stirred together. Sprinkle with herbs (I know it's anathema to real cooks but I used a basic dried mixed herbs — you could select just sage and thyme and vary that with oregano or whatever). I like to add a dollop (that's a bsd or british standard dollop) of Dijon mustard too. Plus salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste of course.
Then, the crucial bit — lashings of tomato ketchup.
(There are some great designer ketchups on the market now — Stokes do one and, in the Midlands of my youth and wildhood, the excellent Lord Nelson in Burton Joyce sells an own brand too — but these are too rich and tasty for this dish — I recommend the well-known brands or even a supermarketownbrand of oversweetened mush for both this dish and the fish finger butty, of which more later).
Mix it all in and cook until it's starting to crisp up a bit on the base. I have taken to flinging in a few frozen peas and letting them cook through as a token gesture to the five-a-day crowd — I live in scotland — you're lucky to see people get one a month here — and that's usually a turnip.
If you really want to up your cholesterol levels, try putting a fried egg on top and eating it in front of the telly with a hunk of bread and butter.

Recommended tipple: a tasty beer or porter. My favourite at the moment is Raging Bitch from Flying Dog of Maryland. Far too rich and tasty to work with oriental spicy stuff, it goes well with this kind of thing. It starts out extremely fruity but ends up quite bitter. which reminds me of most of my girlfriends...

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  some meat or fish
  some fruit — prunes or semi-dried apricots for lamb, preserved lemons for fish or chicken
  clove of garlic
  other veg — sometimes a potato, unless serving with couscous
  plain yoghurt
  coriander leaves and stalks
  ras el hanout

The essential ingredients in any tagine are the pot, the meat, the fruit and the spices. Ras el hanout means 'best in the store' and is a mix of assorted spices like cinnamon, cloves, chilli, cardamom ... and often a few rarer ones like rosebuds and ashberries. I cheat most of the time. I like to buy ready mixed ones from such places as Jordan Valley (the shop on Nicolson St, not the geographical feature) and the other North African shops around there or the spice stall that appears on Castle Street whenever there are mini food fests.
Sometimes I'll add a pinch of fennel or chilli or an extra cinnamon stick, sometimes a squirt of harissa from a tube if I want to spice things up. It's fun to experiment with different brands and additives — well, it is if the rest of your life is as empty as mine.

My one-man tagine came from a Moroccan furniture shop (now gone the way of all business) on Leith Walk, which had in a job lot at a tenner each. As someone renting a flat with only an electric cooker (chiz moan drone) it was one of my finest investments. Few dishes are as simple as this. Fling stuff in, cook over really low heat for ages, eat. Unless I overfill it I can just stick the base onto a tray, pour a beer and eat it up.

OK ... this is what you do ...
Cut a small carrot into thick slices. put the tagine base on a very low heat (2 or 3 out of the 6 my hotplate goes up to) and pour a thin layer of olive oil onto it. Lay the carrots on top — they stop other things sticking to the bottom, while caramelising a bit themselves. Smash or slice the garlic and add. Coarsely slice the onion and add that.
Meat can be cubed or pieces of chicken or fish left on the bone. Fish may be better added after the veg have started to cook and the dish won't take as long anyway. Add the meat on top of or in with the onions. You could have coated the meat or fish in the spice mix a bit in advance if you like but I usually just sprinkle a spoonful of ras el hanout at this stage.
Cubed potato, mushrooms or peppers can be added now too.
Pour over a very small amount of stock or even water. Probably no more than a tablespoonful or two. The conical lid will keep the steam circulating and any more will boil over the sides (as I keep forgetting). Add the coriander, either chopped up and mixed in or whole and taken out before serving.
Add a little salt and black pepper to taste, place the lid over the whole and go away for about an hour.

Turn over the meat and make sure everything's saucy and the spices mixed in. Now add the fruit — chopped preserved lemons (available from the same places you get the spices) or moist dried fruits to taste. Especially if adding lemons it's nice to balance them by adding a little honey to the sauce. You can also fling in olives or almonds. No two servings need ever be the same. Leave for another half hour at least.

To serve, either tip into another bowl or over some steamed couscous or with hot fresh khobz (crusty, flat moroccan bread). I just let the spuds do the carb work.
Serve with some yoghurt on the side and mix in as required.

recommended tipple:
This goes great with chilled lagers or pale ales. Or a nice crisp but fruity wine like a viognier or some of the spicier alsatians.

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Thai Curry


  some meat or fish or seafood like large prawns
  some other vegetables
  clove of garlic
  coconut milk
  coriander leaves and stalks
  Thai basil, lime leaves, lemon grass, Thai fish sauce,
      lime juice, tamarind paste, chillis, as the fancy takes me
  Thai curry paste
  Thai fragrant rice

Like the tagine above, there's a basic and simple technique which gets varied according to mood, meat and the vagaries of fate. The whole thing takes about twenty-five minutes, only five or ten of which are effort.

Again I cheat. I have been known to make up my own curry pastes but I'm quite happy to use the ones available in 400g plastic tubs (by Maesri or Mae Ploy) from shops like the very wonderful thai@haymarket (who are also helping me learn Thai, so i can confidently say praysanii yuu tang saay — 'the post office is on the left'). These tubs keep for ages in the fridge. The top shelf of mine has a whole selection and I have been known to grab them at random to decide which to go for. I'm never quite sure of the theological implications of selecting mussaman (muslim) curry paste when cooking pork, but the taste still works.

The main pastes, and therefore curries, are:
Red: hotter than the others, great with red meats (but they all go with anything)
Green: slightly less hot, made with green chillies and great with chicken, add lots of herbs to make it even greener
Yellow: curry is Tamil for stew/sauce, gaeng is Thai for stew/sauce, Thais call this 'gaeng kari': so that's 'sauce sauce' then. A bit like an Indian curry in flavour, it's good if the guest veg is a cubed potato.
Mussaman: a dark yellowish paste, influenced by Muslims from India, using turmeric and nutmeg etc
Panang: a very red but milder curry with very fragrant flavours, works well with a dash of tamarind paste to enhance the bitter tang.

You can cook this in any handy saucepan but I have a small wok with a slightly flattened base that I bought from a Chinese supermarket a hundred years or so ago. It's just the job. Another, bog-standard saucepan cooks the rice.
I buy my coconut milk in small, 165ml tins (by Chaokoh or Aroy-D). A large tin will do for two curries, but it goes off very quickly and attracts mould even from the safety of the fridge, so it rather commits you to another curry soon after — or finding a mate, and we all know that ain't gonna happen.
Until recently I was using small green aubergines imported from Thailand and Thai coriander likewise. Sadly these imports have become prohibitively expensive, so I use things like green or red peppers and English coriander (cilantro). But Thai basil is essential — usually use sweet basil for meats and holy basil for seafood. I buy it in large packs but it freezes really well. Just take it from the freezer and crush a handful straight into the pot while it's boiling.

Right. After all that waffle, we can begin. Select your meat and flavour and proceed thusly...
Cut onion into chunks, crush garlic. Cut meat into cubes or hack up joints. Put the wok/saucepan over a medium-high heat.
Put the coconut milk in the wok and add curry paste. Getting the amount right is personal and random. A very large teaspoon or the best part of a dessert spoon does it for me but you might prefer milder (or hotter). Check out the result before you decide to add some fresh chillies though.
Add the garlic, onions, veg and meat and stir well (yes, some recipes say to fry the paste in some groundnut oil first or even fry the meat or soften the onions. I don't know if it makes much difference; I do know I can't usually be arsed).
Add any extra spice ingredients and chop up stalks and leaves of coriander. Crush or chop some basil leaves in. I like to put in a goodly helping of the herbs, especially in a green curry.
Add a dash of fish sauce to taste (it's like adding salt to western food) and anything else you fancy trying out. Meanwhile boil the water and cook the rice by whichever method you prefer. The curry will take ten to fifteen minutes to cook through, so putting the rice on after getting the curry going usually works out about right.
As the curry starts to boil, turn it down to a goodly simmer and check it thickens without boiling dry. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
When everything is cooked through and the sauce reduced, I turn out the rice into a large shallow bowl and unceremoniously dump the curry onto it from the wok. I even have a nice Thai set of bronze spoon and fork, to eat it in a vaguely traditional manner, while reminding myself 'praysanii yuu tang kwaa' (it's on the right from where I live).

recommended tipple:

This also is best with chilled lagers or crisp wines.

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Tuna pasta with tomatoes and capers
from a recipe I saw Giorgio Locatelli do on telli

  clove of garlic, olive oil
  small onion or shallot
  small tin of tuna
  white wine
  small tin (or half a normal one) of plum tomatoes
  basil (I usually use dried), salt, pepper
  dried spaghetti (100grams per person if you really want to measure stuff)

As your man said at the time, this is your real fast food. It takes little longer than the 10-minute spaghetti.
So, assemble your troops and go...
Put water on to boil, smash the garlic, finely chop the onion, get some olive oil in your pan (trusty wee skillet for me)
add salt and oil to the water and put in the spaghetti.
Lightly fry the garlic and onion in the oil; as they soften, fling in the drained tuna (I usually keep some back with a little of the chopped onion for a tuna mayo sandwich next day lunch). Break up the fish a little.
Add half a glass of wine and let it reduce.
Stir in the tomatoes and juice (you can add a little tomato concentrate too if you like) and add a desertspoonful of drained capers, a sprinkle of dried (or chopped fresh) basil, salt and pepper. Reduce to a simmer.

You should have about five minutes for the sauce to reduce and the pasta finish cooking, so chop up some tomatoes, cucumber and lettuce to make a side salad. Health freaks might want to knock up a light dressing, us cholesterol junkies will settle for a dollop of good mayo and a petit pain on the side and pouring ourselves a good tumbler of the vino blanco.

When it's just right, drain the spag, dump it on top of the sauce, give it a little swirl and tip it as a whole into the waiting wide and shallow bowl. Buon appetito!

recommended tipple:
The same wine you cook with; it needs to be crisp and light, like a cab sauv or one of the Italian team. I'll usually say what I'm using in the relevant tweet and that often depends on what appellation wines have got on offer.

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Kimchi Bokum — Korean pickled cabbage cooked with pork
pretty much my own recipe based on something served at the Seoul restaurant in Clerkenwell

  pork steak
  clove of garlic, groundnut oil (or veg oil or whatever)
  onion, sliced
  mustard, soy sauce, sesame oil
  sesame seeds
  coriander, chopped
  rice or noodles

It's more usual that kimchi is served as a side dish to almost every meal in Korea, but this cooked version is very tasty. Kimchi (or 'mat kimchi') is avaialable from almost any Asian store these days and, being pickled, keeps for ages.

Another quite quick bit of cooking, but you do need to do the first bit in advance — half an hour or so is fine, more is better.
If, like me, the pork steaks are usually hiding at the bottom of the freezer, it's best to slice them when they're half-thawed, cos you can get thinner pieces that way.

Make a marinade with soy sauce, sesame oil, a little mustard and a few sesame seeds (if feeling flash, you can even toast them lightly in a dry pan and save some for a last minute garnish sprinkle with chopped corainder);
Slice the meat thinly, trim off any fat and coat in the marinade. Leave until ready to cook. Of course if you're in a hurry, you can just coat the meat, drain it and head straight for the wok. Let's face it, with the spiciness of the kimchi and all the other flavours, not to mention lashings of lager, you'll hardly notice the difference a good marinade makes.

When ready to go, start cooking the noodles or rice, slice up the onions and garlic, and heat a little oil in the wok (or frying pan).
Soften the onions and garlic, don't let them colour. drain the meat slices and add them to the pan, stir frying the lot until the meat is lightly browned. Stir in the marinade and let reduce a bit.
Stir in a portion of kimchi (to taste: about the same volume as the meat is about right) and heat through. Add most of the coriander and mix. Add extra soy and seasonings to taste.
When cooked, turn out onto the drained noodles (or rice) and sprinkle with remaining corainder and sesame.

recommended tipple:
Another one for the lighter beers or a crisp wine

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Alanis Morissette
seafood in aniseed sauce

  seafood — any combination of scallops, squid, prawns etc.
    can be made with monkfish pieces too, all at small-bite-size
  anise liquer or pernod or ricard
  clove of garlic
  small onion or shallot sliced
  tomato puree
  double cream
  basil, dried or fresh chopped
  fresh pasta

A very fast recipe of my very own developed when I was living in Spainland. Its original name was mariscos anisette (seafood anisette), but for reaons lost in the alcoholic mists of time, it took the name of a Canadian chanteuse (for whom I have no particular fonditude). Don't worry if you don't like strong aniseed flavours or the songs of Ms Morissette, the end result should just be a slight tang which lifts the flavour of the meat.

The old market in Cádiz is as near as one can get to heaven on this earth, and the fish market therein is the holy of holies. and in one corner thereof colas or 'tails' of seafood and other scraps are sold off very cheap. The locals called me el inglé' loco and this may have been partly because I was fond of buying these things — to them this is buying shellfish without the best and tastiest bit, while to folks up here it's not having to buy the bit we'd throw away anyway. So everybody's happy.
The powerful aniseed liqueur (anis seco) I used in the original is hard to get in the UK but Pernod or Ricard will do — they don't have the same depth of flavour, nor do they burn quite so spectacularly, but the finished product is near enough. Nothing can quite compensate for it not having Spainland wrapped round it anyway.

Finely chop the onion and garlic as usual and fry gently in either a good olive oil or butter (if you really want to go for rich flavours and coronary diseases) until softened.
Add the seafood and cook quickly on all sides — no more than a minute or so.
Pour over the liqueur — about a shot glass full, according to taste — a little less if using real anis seco — tilt the pan and apply a match. do stand back; it can send a nice blue flame feet into the air which, though not searingly hot, can have a fun effect on the eyebrows.
Return to a medium to high heat and pour in a tablespoonful or some of cream and a squirt of tomato puree. Mix in and add about a teaspoon of basil (more if using fresh).
Add salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste and serve over pasta.
Oh yes, as this only takes about three minutes, you should have already put the pasta on (it's great with a fresh green fettucini which also takes three minutes) and made a side salad.

recommended tipple:
A crisp white wine of course — or for an Andalucian touch, a very dry and salty manzanilla sherry

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Chili con carne

Surely you don't need a recipe for this?! You'll be wanting one for spag bol next.
OK then, this is basically what I do; no doubt many a purist will find fault — so sue me — or just leave out the beans.

  minced beef
  clove of garlic squelched and chopped
  small onion choppéd fine
  small tin of tomatoes
  ditto of red kiddly beans, drained
  optional tomato puree (optional is the best make)
  chili powder — I'm more likely to use a mix of cumin and flaked chilis and maybe a pinch of ground coriander seed
        (if only cos I have them in stock and don't want to buy a ready mix of what I already have)
  bit of very dark chocolate (I have some 99% cocoa buttons which are too bitter to eat but one dropped in here is great)
  coriander, dried or fresh chopped
  rice or crackers or crusty bread to serve
  lashings of cold beer

Quick and easy, this. Fling some olive oil in the pan and fry up the garlic, onions and a bit later the beef until the veg are soft and the beef is browned.
You can add and boil off a splash of red wine at this point, if you like.
Pour in the toms and beans and stir. Add spices, salt and pepper, bump up the tomatoeyness with some puree if you like. Note that in this context, as it did to the Aztecs, 'spices' includes bitter chocolate, the darker and cocoa-contenty the better. Not a lot of chocolate, and you can leave it out, but it makes a difference.
Let it all cook through while the rice or whatever to go wth it cooks; stir in the herbs, heat through and serve.

Easy peasy — bol sauce to follow if you insist.

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Muc don thit
Vietnamese squid stuffed with pork

This is a delicious if fiddly dish, and it helps if no one brings your attention to the similarity between cleaning out a squid and what one might imagine cleaning out a condom would be like.  As long as no one puts that image into your mind, you'll be fine.
I'd serve it with stir-fried pak choy in oyster sauce or, if you can get them from an Asian store, some pickled mustard greens. And rice if you like but maybe some spare cellophane noodles would be even better.  And beer.

  a whole squid
  minced pork
  clove of garlic, crushed
  spring onion or three, chopped fine
  couple of chinese mushrooms, soaked in hot water for half an hour, drained, squeezed, de-stalked and chopped fine
  some dried lily flowers if you have them, soaked, drained and chopped fine
  cellophane noodles, soaked in hot water 20 mins and chopped up
  fish sauce, Vietnamese-style for preference (more pungent than Thai)

Clean out the mantle (body) of the squid, keeping all thoughts of condoms from your mind), discard quill and gunk, and peel off any dark, spotty outer membrane.  Wash thoroughly, pat dry.
If you have the head and tentacles, discard the beak and chop the flesh finely.
Mix together the pork, garlic, spring onion, mushroom, flowers, squid bits, chopped noodles, fish sauce, black pepper (everything, basically — and you can obviously chuck in lime juice, coriander, even chili to taste, if experiment means more to you than authenticity).
Stuff mixture firmly into the squid's mantle (any left over can just be fried up on the side) and sew up the opening with coarse thread — failing that jam a few cocktail sticks through it and hope for the best.
Heat a couple of tblspnsfl of groundnut oil in a frying pan and sauté the squid for 5 minutes, turning regularly.   Prick in a couple of places with a fine skewer or cocktail stick and cook for about ten more minutes, depending on size of squid — obviously you neeed the pork mix to be cooked through.
Remove from pan and cut into 1.4762cm (roughly) slices and serve on a bed of shredded lettuce or noodles or, tonight at least, fried pak choy.

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Tromp l'oie
Goose surprise

A surprise to me, at least.  What do you call a chase that gets you a wild goose, though that wasn't what you were chasing?

I went to the market,
the farmers' market
but they hadn't got a squirrel, not anywhere there...

It all started when somebody twitted about a recipe for squirrel pie.  As it happened, I remembered seeing squirrel on border county foods' excellent game stall recently, and decided to have a go.
But, like I said, no luck this week.  But they did have a wild goose breast.  And I remembered eating said busty substances at the long-gone Hungry Hussar of Hampingstead, in That London, and started wracking my brane to recall what went with it — for a while, I remembered only that there was tonnes of stuff.  Then the word cholet or sólet popped into the vacant space I call my mind, and thus began my research…

Hungarian bean thing

Many cultures have their own version of this fart-factory of a delicacy.  The French have the classic cassoulet, the Asturians of Spainland have their fabada and we in the UK have the true apotheosis of the dish: Heinz baked beans with pork sausages (other equally delicious makes are available).
I'm going to have to cheat a bit, since the proper thing needs to be cooked slowly for a number of decades to get all the ingredients to stew into a blended and fragrant gunk.  Here's my substitute based on what I could find in the local shops.

  ½ bsd (british standard dollop) of goose fat
  onion, garlic
  small packet of smoked bacon lardons
  tin of haricot beans
  dried pearl barley
  splash of wine
  teaspoon or more of the excellent sweet paprika powder the lovely Agata (or, more lately, Mercédesz) brought me from Budapest
    (substitute the best you can get if you don't have access to a lovely Agata)

Soften the chopped onions and garlic in the goose fat.  Add the lardons and cook for a bit on medium heat (I'm doing this in my tagine for the slow cooking).  Moisten with a splash of wine and reduce a little.
Add the drained tin of beans and a small handful of the barley.  Season with salt, pepper and the paprika and mix.
Reduce heat and cook very slowly for the rest of the afternoon, preferably while watching Wales clobber England at rugby.   Add a little water if it looks like drying out (maybe I should boil up the barley in liquid first?).   I may squirt a little tomato puree at it too.

Goose (wild? it was absolutely livid!)

So what to do with the goose?  I just found a packet of red cabbage already cooked with apples in a Polish store   I'll heat that up as another side dish and probably 'roast' a cut up potato in one of my wee cast iron pans too — I shall use goose fat of course and I like to add a bsd of lime pickle to the pan to imbue the spuds with a delicate tang.
As to the goose breast itself I shall simply roast that quickly in the other covered skillet, to keep it pink in the middle.   I'll rub it with salt and pepper beforehand and drain it and let it rest when I think it's done.
Then I shall sit in my chair, rumbling and groaning with satisfied fullitide for the rest of the week, possibly passing away from a massive coronary during Brain Cox's Wonders of the Universe.

recommended tipple:
A heavy red wine — i tried to find a purveyor of Bull's Blood (or Egri Bikavér), once ubiquitous in the boozeramas of Britain, but no more luck than on the wild squirrel chase ...

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Merluza a la Vasca
Hake in green sauce

Hake takes me back to my Spainland days, even though it was probably caught off Cornwallshire even then.  Any white fish will do really, but the new farmers' market at Gorgie City Farm had some hake, so...

  hake steak or similar white fish
  garlic, onion, chopped fine
  olive oil
  plain flour
  white wine
  fish stock or water
  frozen peas
  a few mussels and or clams, in their shells
  hard boiled egg, chopped up
  loads of fresh parsley, maybe a sprig or two of coriander or even a bit of basil, chopped up fine-ish

Quick and easy: dust the fish with salt, pepper and flour, fry it in a skillet in olive oil a minute or two on each side, remove from pan, set aside.
Add more oil to pan, soften the onion and garlic, add flour to make a roux of sorts.
Add half a glass of wine, reduce and add stock.  Add the shellfish if available and cook for a few minutes (the flavours of the shellfish really improve the dish).
When the sauce is thickening, return the fish to the pan to warm through and add all the greenery, the broken up egg and some peas.  I'm lazy enough to add the peas straight from the freezer but it is best to boil 'em up in another pan first.  Also I like to add a very very small pinch of chilli or a dash of tabasco just to lift it a little.

Serve with patatas pobres ('poor man's spuds': smallish cubes of potato, slowly fried in olive oil with a little garlic and onion, very finely shredded).  At the time of writing, i'm going to do it with a warm version of the Seville dish, zanahorias aliñadas (carrot in moorish style, sliced and fried gently with a touch of cumin and some coriander, moistened with wine — which should really be sherry but isn't).

recommended tipple:
Any dry white wine really; same one you cook with.  Osasuna! (that's yer actual Basque/euskara for 'cheers')

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Sausages and Mash
A recipe found in Stratford on Avon

To sausages and goose fat in a pan
I add an onion, choppéd none too fine
And all these fry, unto a nice, dark tan;
Turn up the heat, add half a glass of wine.
Meanwhile have I in salted water boil'd
Potatoes peeléd and then slic'd up small
And when they soften (and when I'm well oil'd)
Season'd and butter'd and then mash'd withal.
Some of the water added to the dish,
With herbs and salt and pepper seasonéd,
The sauce is thickened, serv'd with (if you wish)
Green flageolets and one large glass of red.
Good honest grub, not fanciful or flash —
Will Shakespeare's way with sausages and mash!

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Spaghetti Bolognese
the way what i do it

This must be the standard fallback recipe for any billy-no-mates or student who prefers cooking and the edible to opening a pot noodle.   I already know Bolognese sauce doesn't contain mushrooms and have been berated by Italians for the very name:  'the bolognese sauce, she is not-a serve with-a the spaghetti!'.  OK, to an ignorant Inglese the difference between spaghetti and linguini is minimal but I have been using the latter recently — not for authenticity but because it was on offer.
But spag bol as a generic term is what you make it, how you like it and contains whatever you fancy.  I do occasionally chop up a mushroom, and sometimes I even remember to add it to the pan at some stage.  So, in case anybody out there really wants to know, this is just a quick summary of what I do, no doubt totally lacking in authentitude.

Chop garlic and onion fine, sweat them in the pan, chop a rasher of bacon, add that.  After a minute or so, add a portion of good minced beef, stir till browned and then glug in some red wine.  Reduce that well, tip in half a tin of chopped plum tomatoes and add a squirt of tomato puree.  Put the pasta on to boil, add salt, fresh-ground black pepper and a large sprinkle of dried oregano to the sauce; stir, reduce heat a tad and let it thicken while preparing a side salad and pouring a large glass of the red.  When pasta is nearly done, drain and plonk on the sauce, stir round once.  When pasta is al dente, upend into serving bowl.  Top with lashings of good-quality partisan cheese, shaved, not grated.    Spag bol, salad and wine —— done.

What i can't understand is how my belovéd ninfa celestial seemed to do exactly the same as me and yet produce a far better-tasting dish.   Truly, life is full of mystery.

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Fish Finger Buttie
with kind permission of molecular gastronaut Heston Blumincheek

I believe that even the humblest of dishes can be given that extra edge by applying scientific knowledge and research.   To prove this, I've taken the simple fish finger buttie and even stuck to the most basic of main ingredients to make something really special and turn, I hope, a simple snack into a truly orgasmic experience.
Here I'm using five breaded cod fingers by Birds Eye and slices cut from a large co-operative farmhouse loaf.  even the sauce is basically a Co-op own brand tomato ketchup.  Now, you could vary these, use another brand for any of them, but we celebrity chefs don't only make our money by charging punters hundreds for a meal, you know, so respect to the sponsors, ok?  How often do you think Oliver actually uses any of the crap from a supermarket?  Taste the difference, my arse!

Firstly, prepare your bread.  It's vitally important that the slices are neither too thick nor too thin.  Believe me, an ångström either way can diminish the effect.  Here at the Dead Duck we have very expensive precision slicing machines, developed for use with samples for electron microscopes, but for home use I reckon you should simply aim to cut your slices with a laser, as close as possible to a thickness of 8.4732mm.  Cut two slices per sandwich but not too long before full preparation; they should not have chance to dry out.
The fish fingers should have been removed from the freezer and left to chambre for an hour or so before frying.  A 12" cast-iron skillet should now be heated up to a temperature of exactly 456.5 degrees Kelvin — assuming you're using my recommended oil mixture: this should be 73% olive oil (not virgin cold pressed, don't be silly), 24% soy oil and 3% groundnut oil (Laotian for perfect results).  Once the pan reaches the desired temperature, two tablespoonsful of the oil should be added and brought up to heat before adding the fingers.  These should be cooked for 3minutes 37seconds on each side, while playing a recording of the thrid movement of Debussy's La Mer (ideally in a performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) and preparing the bread.
To do this, spread the sauce to a depth of exactly 3.852222222222222mm on each slice.  The sauce itself is a mixture of 95% ketchup, 2% anchovy paste, 2% Cumbeslobodian truffle extract and 1% lemon juice, all blended with two drops of tabasco sauce.  this can be prepared in advance and kept for weeks in the fridge or thrown into a nearby canal; it's up to you.

Finally, place the assembled sandwich on a large white oval plate and garnish with watercress and red pepper extract.  to enhance the experience, it is essential that you have prepared an atomiser of sea air — a basic brine, preferably collected from Whitstable harbour (to give that oystery tang and essence of seabird droppings): this should be sprayed high into the air just before you settle down to eat.  The ideal drink for this is a large glass of 2002 Bâtard-Montrachet, but do remember to cover the glass before spraying the room with rancid seawater.

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Broad Bean and Pancetta Risotto

The more observant of my follower (if there is one who comes here — for all I know I'm talking to myself as usual) might spot that certain meals frequently appear in close temporal proximity.  This simply reflects wullie-nae-mates economics.  One large tin of tomatoes is a lot cheaper than two small ones, and a tin of flageolets verts can be stretched over three servings of sausages and mash.  But, even in the fridgy climate and with those neat little plastic lids for resealing tins, there's only so long before the mould starts to take over the can.  Likewise cheeses: dishes like spag bol can be made without partisan cheese if I forget it (as I often do), but a good risotto can't.  so I'm usually stuck with a prepacked and fartoobig wedge of tasteless supermarket 'reggiano', and even if I schlep over to one of Iain Mellis' wonderful cheesemongers, I usually get a chunk big enough to do a few dishes — ah, how I miss the loose lump cheese from Lina Stores in Soho.
Anyway, what I'm saying is, don't be surprised to see spag bol or even Caesar salad listed later in the week.

Another advantage to this dish is that it otherwise features the things that usually lurk in larder or fridge and requires no thawthought (I just coined that word and I rather like it).  These are the things it needs...

  the usual chopped (half) onion and garlic
  some chicken stock (half a cube boiled in less than half a pint of water)
  cubetti di pancetta – these smoked darlings come in handy wee packs available anywhere from Valvona&Crolla to FiDL
  carnaroli or arborio or whatevorio risotto rice (I use about a third of a coffee mug per me)
  dry white wine
  frozen broad beans (and maybe some peas too)
  knob of butter (that's an ingredient, not a confession)
  oregano, salt, pepper & a pinch of saffron if you have any around

It was Gramsay in one of his newspaper columns who said broad beans make a great risotto and he was right — even if he meant fresh ones and I'm cheating.  If you can get the real thing when they're in season, it's probably worth giving them a go.  I've spotted fresh borlotti beans in town of late.

Good old skillet over medium/high heat, fry up the usual suspects in olive oil; when soft add the pancetta and cook that for a bit before adding the rice.  Stir the rice round to coat with a thin film of grease.
Add a splash of wine — go on, pour youself a glass while you're at it — oh, you already did — drink one, reduce the other.
Boil up your beans and peas in the stock, remove from heat and add a ladleful of stock to the rice (I just add the beans as part of this process).  Unlike with paella, where the stock is added in one go and the pan covered, the secret with risotto is to add the stock a bit at a time as it gets absorbed and the rice turns gooey and creamy.  So do just that, meanwhile adding the herbs and seasonings: a pinch of saffron adds a richness and colour but is far from essential.

When the rice is nicely cooked and al dente and most of the stock is used up and absorbed, stir in a few blobs of butter and a goodly splurge of grated partisan cheese, to make it really rich and creamy.  Serve with a crusty chunk of baguette, a mixed salad and a large glass of that white wine.
What do you mean you drank it all?  Open another bottle then, dimwit.

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Caesar Salad

I probably mentioned already that using up ingredients is key to the varied diet of the wullie-nae-mates.  Caesar salad is a rather tasty alternative to all the high-carb trash I usually manage to disguise as cuisine.  It also uses up some of the partisan cheese I buy for things like risotto and spag bol (see above).  'What of the anchovies?' I hear you cry.  'how do you use them up?'
Well, smartytroos, a true Caesar salad, as defined by its creator, Caesar Cardini (1896-1956), doesn't need them.  the anchovy content of Worcester sauce is sufficient.  Having said that, I do sometimes add them, which is why I prefer to buy small jars of the blighters rather than tins — easier to store.

It's all very simple.  Either you fling everything in a blender (my Braun* hand blender has a nice wee 350ml chopper — behave) or you go all artisan and do it bit by bit as follows...

You take a little garlic and some salt and pestle them to a pulp in a mortar, adding a drop of olive oil and lemon (or even lime) juice.  Use a salted anchovy fillet instead of the salt if you must be a rebel.  Grate in your partisan cheese and mush that in, adding juice and oil to keep it moist enough.  When that's all mixed in, stir in the other stuff and blend it all well.
Said other stuff is the rest of the olive oil and citrus juice, a good helping of Worcester sauce, some fresh-ground black pepper and some or all of a coddled egg.  Not many people coddle eggs these days, so i shall elucidate (they can't touch you for it).
You get some water really hot, boiling or thereabouts, you put a whole fresh egg in and you take it off the heat.  Leave it for about a minute, then crack it into a bowl.  If you're making enough for a lot of salads or to feed more than one, you might use the whole egg.  Otherwise just add whatever seems the right amount to the mix.  Yeah, some people might fear salmonella, so you could leave it out but it's not the same without it, the risk is very low and (in the immortal words of Tom Stoppard) it's not as if the alternative is immortality.

When I were a lad (he digressed), my old Gran would make wonderful buns and fishcakes and stuff.  Whenever we asked for the recipe she'd tell us the ingredients and the method but was unable to answer basic questions about quantities.  I like to think I'm sharing the frustration this caused with you now, dear reader.  Like her, with her six decades of experience, I, with my innate laziness, do all this by eye, and I like to experiment and vary things — laziness and sloppiness are thus the cause of some happy (and, let's not deny it, many unhappy) accidents.  Suffice it to say that a little garlic and salt go a long way, the oil and juice are in the ratio of 5.463:2.376 (only kidding; two or three to one), a tad less Worcester sauce than juice – and some add a dash of white wine vinegar too.  Cheese?  no idea, how about an ounce for every tablespoon of juice?  Just play around, find out what works for you.  Too much of one thing?  Add a bit more of everything else.

So, that's the dressing: what does it dress?  Basically it's what my mum used to call a 'honeymoon salad' — lettuce alone ('let us alone', geddit?).  Shred or just rip up a cos (or romaine) lettuce into a bowl.  To this you can add some shavings of partisan cheese, maybe an anchovy fillet or two and a handful of cretins (a culinary term for small, lightly toasted cubes of bread) — for best results put some cubes on a tray, sprinkle liberally with olive oil and chuck loads of herbs at them like thyme and sage and toast in a warm oven until they're just starting to colour; let them cool a bit before adding to the lettuce.  Finally, it needs to be lightly tossed to mix all the ingredients.  This is a highly-skilled job: the mixing has to lead to a variety of taste experiences with every mouthful.  fortunately, I'm naturally gifted in this area — so much so that my skill is evident even to complete strangers, who, despite never having seen me in the kitchen, often identify me on the slightest of acquaintance as a complete tosser.

That's the basic salad.  I like to serve it with a side salad of cucumbles and tomatoes but increasingly these days people associate it with grilled chicken breasts.  So why not?
I have been known to coat a piece of chicken with some sort of glazey gunk (some combination of brown sugar or honey, olive oil, soy, garlic, mustard, whatever), and stick it on my wavy-line griddle pan thing — but, at the time of writing, having had a bigger lunch than expected, I'm just flinging some supermarket cooked ham in and opening a bottle of a recent discovery, alsatian pinot auxerrois from Appellation Wines.

* Other makes of blender and means of blending hands are available.  Blending of hands is very silly, and is not recommended or supported by this website.

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Laab Nuea
spicy, minty, beefy, salady dish from Isaan (North East Thailand)

In spring, when the Edinburgh sun is in the sky longer and even manages to get out from behind the clouds on occasion, and the temperatures finally struggle above freezing, the front garden at number 21 becomes a riot of green, with a few flowers to boot.   And for this writer the finest crop is an effusion of mint.  The lady of the flat has given her blessing to my grabbing a handful when I pass on my weary way home from the caffs and shops of Auld Reekie, only too pleased to see it kept down a little — a blessing coupled with a warning to pick it from further back because "the wee dugs pish on the stuff nearer the railings".

And what is it picked for, dear reader?  Well, partly for the occasional mint julep, a drink I became partial to after buying a bottle of Knob Creek bourbon (though asking lassies if they fancied coming back to try my knob with mint was not very successful) —— simply boil up a syrup of 50-50 sugar and water and stick it in a jar with loads of mint to cool; strain out the mint and keep it in the fridge.  Whenever you feel like it, put some crushed ice in a wee frozzed glass (or pewter cup if you want to be authentic), pour over a slug of finest Kentucky bourbon and add a sprig of lightly crushed fresh mint before pouring some of the syrup over it and drink with a straw.

But I digress.  the other main use of this minty bonanza is the Thai (or Lao) salad known as laab.  both refreshingly minty and tongue-carbonizingly spicy, it's a great summer dish served with khao neow or sticky rice (as in khao neow, lao bao, sticky rice on the lao border, from the thai version of 'My Fair Lady').

As well as gathering in the mint harvest, it needs a couple of other things to be pre-prepared.  One essential ingredient is sometimes sold as laab powder; indeed laab mixes, with all the key ingredients are available, but nothing beats the fresh flavours (and scope for variation) of assembling them yourself.  And laab powder is actually made from bog-standard white rice grains: heat a heavy skillet and stick in a wee shovelful of plain white rice (jasmine, basmati, uncle bert's easycook, whatever) and shake it around until it's all going light brown.  Let it cool and then stick it in a coffee grinder to reduce it to a powder.  It keeps for a month or so in the fridge, though the sooner you use it the more of that great nutty flavour it'll retain.  And the other thing you'll need to do is soak the sticky rice in water for a few hours before using.  You have to buy sticky rice from your local asian stores of course, it is a specific type of rice and can't be made from the usual stuff.  As i discovered, after being careless, it sure doesn't work with risotto rice!

Okay, so, the ingredients... (recipe from the Thai Chocolate Cookschool, Chiang Mai) :

  beef mince — that's the nuea bit; but it's great with minced chicken (gai) or pork (muu) or even pre-roasted duck (ped yang)
  2 or 3 shallots, preferably wee thai red ones (from asian stores), sliced very thin
  1 tbsp laab powder (see above)
  minced or powdered red chilli to taste (Isaan style, use one bucketful; else about ½tsp)
  2 or 3 cm of lemongrass minced very fine (use a chopper on a piece straight from the freezer and shave off very thinly)
  ½tsp or less white sugar (or palm sugar if you can get it)
  1 or 2 tbs of lime juice or juice of half a lime or whatever's left after making a g&t
  1 tbsp naam pla — Thai fish sauce
  mint and coriander (preferably Thai), coarsely chopped
  sticky rice, soaked

Put the sticky rice on in a steamer.  the lovely people at thai@haymarket sold me some dinky little bamboo steamers, which I line with muslin and fill with rice — one steamer per diner (ie one steamer; ho hum).  I then stick them in my tall asparagus/sweetcorn cooking thing with an inch of water in the bottom, cover and leave until panicking when it boils dry.  It takes less than 20 minutes to cook.

Unless using duck (in which case roast a breast, drain the fat off, and mince or shred finely), put the minced meat in a pan with a minimal amount of water (it's really there to stop the meat frying and takes ages to boil off if you use too much).  Bring to the boil and stir it in a desultory fashion until the meat is cooked and the water all evaporated.  Remove from the heat.
Add the chopped onion/shallots and the dry ingredients and stir well in.  Add the lime juice and fish sauce, then the leaves and mix well.  Put some fresh lettuce leaves into a shallow bowl and chuck the laab on top.  Garnish with anything else you fancy adding — some chopped tomatoes on the side, a few extra leaves — and serve with the sticky rice at the side.

Goes down very well with a cold beer or six, and though I do prefer it by the banks of the Chao Phraya, i'll just have to settle for the Abode of Stone in Edinburgh.

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A Friendly Kakapo
in fond memory of Joe and Vicky

Back in the early 80s, I lived in Warwick, and frequented the charmingly eccentric eatery run by Latvian ex-heavyweight wrestler, Joe Zaranoff and his wife, Vicky.  One could fill a book with tales of the place, but their relevance here lies in their witty little starter (or was it a pud?) called a 'friendly dog': half a poached pear giving the effect of the head of Snoopy with prunes for the ears and raisins for nose and eyes (research suggests the idea originated in a Betty Crocker children's recipe in the States).

Some years later, entertaining some New Zealand chums, we wanted to do a themed meal.  So we decided on a vegetable Wellington (one guest was a veggie weirdo) as a jocular main course, and the obvious pud: fruit pavlova (claimed by both Kiwis and Aussies).  But what to start with?  Well, I have always had a soft spot for the flightless parrot called a kakapo, a very endangered species indeed.  That a bird could evolve to look like a feathered teddy bear has always amazed me.  Since those days, Douglas Adams and Stephen Fry have publicised their plight (and some Aussie scientists have dared to say they aren't worth the effort and cost of saving!).  More info can be found at the kakapo recovery website, and on facebook you can follow Sirocco, the kakapo who found fame by shagging the back of Fry's co-presenter's head.

Anywhichway, remembering Vicky's doggie starter and mixing in the cute NZ bird, led to the development of the friendly kakapo, the perfect starter for any dinner party.

To make two wee birdies, simply take a ripe avocado, cut in half, remove the stone and peel.  Place each half, hole side down, in shallow bowls and take a thin slice off each side and at the foot (wider) end, to give a flattened surface.
Peel a segment of tangerine or satsuma to make the feet and two segments of grapefruit or preferably pomelo for the wings.  Again, trim the fatter ends flat and place them against the body, as in the pic.  I couldn't get yellow grapefruit or pomelo today, so I'm afraid we have to settle for pink grapefruit wings.  Still tastes good.
Press one blanched whole almond and two black peppercorns into the avocado to make the beak and eyes.
Admire your handiwork, then make a dressing with some juice from the citrus fruits, some olive oil and perhaps a dash of wine vinegar.  Add salt, a smidge of mustard and ground black pepper and mix well (I put it in a wee jar and shake vigorously until it emulsifies a bit).   Sprinkle this decoratively over the bird.  you may want to serve a little extra on the side.

The only problem then is the risk of getting too attached to the wee chappies to eat them.  I'm calling this one Eric.  Everybody say 'aaah!'

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Poor Man's Beef Stroganoff

The recipe for beef stroganoff dates back at least to the middle of the nineteenth century.  Then it was made with cubes of beef, sauteed and finished with mustard and stock and a little soured cream.  Over the years, the cubes became strips of steak, and mushrooms and onions got added into the mix.  It's one of the world's classic dishes.

then there's this cheap and cheerful version which isn't.  But it's still nice.

This dates back to my earliest days of independent living.  Ee had two main bibles in our kitchen: Katherine Whitehorn's Cooking in a Bedsitter and Jocasta Innes' Pauper's Cookbook.  I think this (and a chili con carne recipe) came from the latter.

I seem to remember that the mushroom element (and some thickening) was provided by using a small can of campbell's condensed soup.  I shall dispense with that bit.

So many of the things we used to cook, like the spag bol above, began with garlic, onion and mince.  This is no exception.
So the mince stands in for the steak and, for the sour cream, you substitute a dollop of plain yogurt.  But I shall restore the mushrooms, rather than go the soup route — if you want the sauce any thicker than the yogurt makes it, sprinkle in a little plain flour at the end of the frying stage.

Fry the garlic and onion in a little oil until soft.  It won't hurt to add a chopped-up rasher of bacon, assuming your dietary laws allow it.
Add the mince and brown all over.  Fling in a handful of thinly sliced button mushrooms.
Moisten with a little white wine, then add salt, mustard, a little paprika if you fancy it, and lashings of freshly-ground black pepper.
Finally stir in the yogurt, and cook gently (so as not to curdle it) for a few more minutes.

Serve over plain boiled rice with a mixed side salad and perhaps a petit pain.

recommended tipple:
  I prefer a white wine with this but as it's beef a light red is good too.

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Khao Neow Mamuang Dailo
mango and sticky rice a la Dai Lowe

When the mangoes are at their ripest and sweetest, this is a very popular dish in Thailand. it's a simple combination of rice, coconut milk and fruit, reminiscent in concept to the rice pudding with fruit or jam I ate as a kid, but a hundred times nicer.

Sadly, at the time of writing, getting good Thai mangoes in season is as difficult and pricey as getting their herbs at any time. I suppose I should welcome anything, even economic trubbles, that reduces the enormous distances food has to travel these days. Do you realise that in 1944 the average US farm produced over two thousand calories of food for every calorie of fossil fuel it used? In 1944 the ratio became one to one and now, in the era of intensive growing and long-distance distribution, it has flipped completely the other way and rising.
But I do like nice ripe Thai mangoes.  And they don't really grow good anywhere near Scotland.  Though if global warming increases, who knows?

Anyway, the basic dish is made by soaking and steaming a portion of sticky rice, then stirring in a mixture of coconut milk and sugar (previously boiled together in a 2:1 ratio) and a goodly pinch of salt.

Slice the mango and place with the rice on a serving plate or even a banana leaf.
Boil up another similar mix of coconut milk or cream and sugar, but without any salt and pour this over the rice as a sauce.
Serve sprinkled with a few sesame seeds.

The 'a la Dai' bit is a little touch I tried out with great success just after arriving back from Thailand in 2006.  Finding the rice a little uninspiring as it was, I tried soaking it in a mixture of orange and pineapple juices before steaming.  This not only imparted a fruity flavor but also gave the rice a pleasing hue.
In fact, if you were doing it as a dinner party pud, you could do some rice in the traditional way and some with fruit juice, arranging it tastefully on each plate or leaf for maximum aesthetic effect.

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Pinchos Morunos
marinaded pork skewers with some other spanish stuff

It just occurred to me.  I've eaten these delicacies all over Spainland and UKland too.  I've got recipe books in castellano and inglés and seen many recetas for them on the old interweb and elsewhere.  Always they are described as grilled skewers of pork in the moorish style.  much is made of the influence on this dish of the Moslem Caliphate which ruled Southern Iberialand until five hundred years ago.
And no one ever seems to pick up on the strangeness that one of the few dishes which bespeaks this Islamic influence is made with dead pig.
It's like a traditional New Yoick recipe for prawn and bacon bagels, already.

Anyway, whatever the origins and however an Islamic set of flavours was ever applied to the amazingly delicious piggy-wigs of the Andalucian hills, it's a fine and simple dish to prepare.
As long as you remember to get the meat marinading the night before.  I mean, if you forget and tweet that you're having them that very evening, just prior to getting the pork from the freezer and looking up the recipe, you'd look a right pranny, wouldn't you?  so don't do that.
Yes, you can do them with just an hour or so of marinading (don't) but they're so much better if you give them a night in the fridge.  You could, for instance, rustle up a quick b.l.t. on the first night and postpone the Spanish extravaganza for the following.  If you did anything that silly, that is.  just saying (oh, how I hate that phrase!).

So cut up your fully-thawed pork steak(s) into cubes.
Make a marinade with a good glug of olive oil, into which you stir assorted 'to taste' amounts of the following:
    ground cumin
    Spanish smoked paprika (I prefer the hotter versions but that's optional)
    thyme and parsley (I'm using dried; fresh is also good)
    salt and fresh-ground pepper
      recipes will also ask for crushed bay leaf and even crushed flesh of red pepper, but can you really be bothered?  I can't, and given the other flavours, I doubt anyone would notice.

Soak the meat in all that, rub it in with a spoon, leave it somewhere cool overnight (maybe give them the odd stir when passing the fridge).  Then thread onto sticks and stick on a barbecue or other charcoal grill if available.  Otherwise grill or griddle them on a high heat until they're starting to char at the edges.
Then serve.

No sauce or anything is needed, as they'd usually be part of a spread of assorted tapas.
At the time of writing, i'm planning to do them with pimientos fritos y patatas bravas (fried peppers and wild potatoes).
The peppers are those excellent long, sweet ones that you can often find these days.  Split in half and deseeded, they are simply cooked on a medium heat in a goodly quantity of olive oil until browning in places (Edinburgh, in my case, ha ha).  On serving, sprinkle with coarse salt.
(Actually two peppers are more than enough, but the tools of evil that are supermarkets don't sell them singly.  no matter — ¡revueltos de pimientos por desayuno mañana! ie soft-scrambled eggs with peppers for breakfast tomorrow!)

The potatoes are cut in smallish cubes and also fried in olive oil until softened inside and golden crisp outside.  I'll add a simple sauce made by sweating some onion and garlic, then moistening with wine before adding some chopped tomatoes and chopped fresh chilli or cayenne pepper, salt, pepper and parsley, and heating until thickened.  Drain the spuds on kitchen paper then sprinkle with salt and pepper before pouring the sauce half over them in a vaguely decorous manner.

Add a nice (ie large) glass of chilled dry sherry and I'll be transported back to my little gaditano salon.  Or would be, were it not for the lousy weather that passes for an Edinburgh summer.  Ho hum.

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Daal Bhat or Saddo's Supper
lentils and rice with a guest vegetable

One of these days, I may share a Korean recipe for black noodles (jajangmyun).  I'm told that in Korean movies, an indicator that a person is unattached and lonely is to show them eating a plate of this simple, delicious but depressing-looking food.  The black bean paste is available in many Asian stores.  The only difficult thing in making it is getting real Korean noodles, made with flour and potato starch, that aren't packaged in an eastern equivalent of an instant noodle dish.

My own signifier dish for such a (now permanent) state is this one.  red lentils and brown rice, boiled together to a mush.  yes, I'm doing my best to make it sound even more depressing than it actually is.

I shall endeavour to summarise how it came to play this rôle in what passes for my life.  Here is a list of the contributory factors.
°  many years ago a friend, who had returned from doing good in Nepal, introduced us to the basic dish.
°  a wife and I were going through our compulsory veggie-weirdo (nay, vegan) stage, and it became an occasional feature of our mealtimes.
°  Nigel Planer's character, Neil, in the seminal sitcom, The Young Ones, was in the habit of boiling up vast pots of lentils for his housemates' dinner.  And dropping them everywhere.
°  I saw a documentary about a tribe of folk who inhabited some remote Himalayan valley.  Despite the barren land and what might seem to us a poverty-ridden life, they seemed extremely content.  And their meal almost every day was exactly the same.  No, not this dish but a similarly simple dish of boiled millet.
°  a wife ran away with a neighbour and colleague, leaving me, for the first but by no means the last time, all alone.

Now, I'd already hatched some vague plan to try and live on the same thing every day, perhaps with the strange notion that it would make me as happy as those little mountain Buddhist folk.  But as regular visitors to this page may have noticed, I like cooking and I like my food.  And I don't do happy.  Semper Dai Lowe, semper dolens.
So a compromise of sorts was reached.

Each night for about a year, except on special occasions and visits to family and friends (all right, I admit it, just family), I half filled a coffee mug with red lentils and then topped it up with brown rice.  I fried a coarsely-chopped onion and a clove of garlic in ghee (clarified butter, but vegetable oil is fine) and added the night's guest vegetable — chopped peppers, mushrooms, courgette, aubergine, whatever I'd grabbed from Granny Smith's veg shop in the centre of Warwick that day.  Sometimes I added a sliced banana, which works surprisingly well, but needs adding to the pan later in the process.
Then I'd sprinkle in salt and assorted combinations of spices.  In a lazy mood, it would be a pre-mixed curry powder but extra fennel, chili powder, fenugreek or whatever, would add a sybaritic note of variety to my ostensibly monkish lifestyle.

Once all the flavours had mingled and the veg was softened, in would go the contents of the coffee mug.  Water was added to cover and the heat turned up to bring the mix to a boil.  Then the heat got lowered and all was left to simmer, until a thickened and softened mush.

Serving is just a matter of turning it out into a bowl and eating with a dollop of yogurt/cucumber raita and some mango chutney/lime pickle, whatever.

There are pitfalls here.  The longish cooking time makes it easy for the absent-minded among me to forget it's on, whereupon an economical dish becomes a charcoal mass in, far too often, a ruined saucepan.  It never took me three goes though.

And there was the time when I picked up the pan too suddenly only to lose my grip when splashed with hot mush, causing the pan to fall, the handle to catch that of another pan and execute a neat flipover, pebble-dashing a wall of my pantry.  And the real pity is that there was no one else there to be entertained by my perfect impression of Neil the hippy, saying, Oh no! Heaveeee!

I did it anyway.  Time to reinstate this dish for a season, methinks.  Think of it as the Dave of the cookery world.  It's actually very tasty.  And healthy.  Ish.

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Dai's Secret Po'boy Recipe
spicy New Orleans sandwich in crusty French bread

Can't you read?  It's a secret!!  Go away!

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Willem-geen-vrienden Kippenwaterzooi met Stamppot
Billy-no-mates chicken waterzooi with stamppot

Before we start, a word or six about celery.  Your humble cook is no big fan of the stringy stalks, certainly no nibbler on the raw produce dipped in salt.  But so many recipes of European origin call for the odd stick of the stuff, and as a flavouring in the right place it is excellent and irreplaceable.  Yes, celery salt is better than nothing but not good enough, not really.
But what's a single fellow — for that matter even a small nuclear family unit — of celery-doubters to do when the smallest quantity to be bought in shops is a whole ruddy head?

The obvious answer is soup; again not so much a beloved favourite as a passable and nourishing way to use it up.  So if you fancy giving this traditional Flemish chicken stewy-fricasee thing a go, that's the best advice available, not least because this dish needs recognisable and munchable matchsticks of said vegetable.  Unless you actually like celery, in which case there's no real hope for you, you weirdo.  At least it's quite cheap.

If you want to sound a tad more posh, the matchsticks can be called julienne strips; you need to slice up the white bit of a leek and a similar length of the aforementioned apium graveolens as part of the preparation.  To be perfectly honest it's becoming clear to your lonely correspondent that this is far from being an ideal singleton's dish, but a sudden attack of nostalgia happened along just in time to meet a slightly unhappy digestive system, reeling from too much spicitude (and, let's not deny it, a little too much booze).  Fond memories of a starred eatery in the windswept Massif Central of Franceland, run by a Flemish chef, who had said dish as one of the specialities du jour, sprang eagerly to mind when the little grey memory banks were being accessed for suitable ideas.

It's quite simple really (albeit long-winded like the recipe).  You can even use up some more of the weeds by sticking the chopped up greenery from the high end of the leeks and celery in a saucepan of stock (yeah, water and a cube will do, let's keep it real), along with a chunk of onion with an embedded clove and a bouquet garni (ok, a sprinkling of mixed herbs).  Fling in a chicken thigh or two — or a breast, whatever; bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 to 20 minutes.

Towards the end of this process, get those strips of leek and celery and stick them with a knob of butter in a flameproof casserole (or the base of a tagine if you like — or, if you're lucky enough to have one, a lovely Vietnamese pot from a chum's gallery, like the one bubbling away while this is being typed), fling in a few more herbs (extra sage if you have it) and sprinkle on a little mace or grate some nutmeg, as it sautées gently for a few minutes over a medium to high heat.

Now take the chunks of meat out of the stock and lay them on top of the julienne 'nest'.  Strain some of the stock over until it starts to lap at the sides of the chicken (many recipes say cover, but if using a good pot with a ceramic lid, this isn't really necessary, as the juices and flavours should circulate nicely and you can always give it a turn now and then). Put the lid on, lower the heat, and let it cook slowly for another half hour (reduce times if it's but a wee chunk of flesh).  Save the spare stock in case it dries out — and for the soup tomorrow … and tomorrow … and tomorrow …

This would traditionally be eaten as it is, with crusty bread or even buttered toast, but greed and another burst of nostalgia, this time for a more recent visit to Amsterdam, has resulted in the production of a side-plate of stamppot.  This is the dutch or flemish equivalent of colcannon, champ or bubble and squeak, one of the many and glorious variations on mashed up spuds and veg.  All it needs is a carrot and it could even be called a hotchpotch (or hutspot).  But it hasn't, so it isn't.

Boil some spuds — it's not a fried dish, so they need to be freshly mashed and hot.  Again, you can fling in the shooty end of the celery and some shredded leek, as well as any sprouts or spring onions you might have lying around.  Chop up and fry up a rasher of bacon too, if you like.  Then simply mash the lot together with butter and salt and pepper to taste.  you'll need some cream to finish the waterzooi, so add a dash of that to this too.  worry not — recent research shows that fats are pretty harmless after all, and it's the sugars you want to worry about.  And be grateful that cream freezes well, cos you don't need a lot.

Finally, take all the solids out of the waterzooi and put them on a plate with the stamppot, preferably resiting the chicken pieces on their now-wilted vegetable base.  Turn up the heat and add some cream (double for preference, but single is being made do with at the moment, on account of that being what was in the freezer), reduce to a smooth sauce and, as they say, adjust the seasoning.  Pour over the meat and serve.

Last century, in the luxurious Michelin-rated gaffe, there was a slight contretemps between the extravagant loonies and the economical sane folk in the party, over what part of the exquisite wine list to go for, and, if memory serves, a rather extravagant white burgundy won the day.  However it may make more sense (gastronomically as well as in the light of more straitened times) to down a crisp Belgian blonde (beer!) with this.  To this end, Appellation Wines provided a rather nice bottle of Grimbergen.

Smakelijk eten!!

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Omelette Arnold Bennett
omelette with smoked haddock and parmesan cheese

I'd like to give credit to Nigel Slater, whose recipe in the Grauniad inspired me to cook this dish, but the true thanks must go to the chefs at the Savoy Hotel in That London who created it for the eponymous writer (1867-1931), author of one of my favourite comic novels, The Card.  In fact, I gave some thought to working on a variation of the dish to be called Omelette Denry Machin (after the hero of said book).  Luckily for you, I was unable to think of any smartarse connections.

[Foornote to history: in July 2018, I actually ate this dish at the Savoy Grill; a different, lighter presentation, as a starter, costing as much as ten of this recipe, partly down to slices of white truffle, partly to the name of Gordon Ramsay, but bloody delicious anyway]

Luckily for your correspondent, Embra is a city well stocked with fishmongers, and the nearest one to the abode of stone, down Gorgie Road, has a wonderful range of smoked fish in the window, the first requirement for an Arnold Bennett.  An undyed smoked haddock seeemed to fit the bill, but a touch of bright orange might well do the job, and perhaps varying or even mixing the fish content could be a fun experiment.  Could an Arbroath smokie in the mix make it an Omelette Walter Scott for instance?

So, as Raymondo used to say on the Jimmy Young show, this is what you do.

Take some smoked fish and simmer it for five to ten minutes in milk.  Meanwhile beat a couple of eggs (using the old 8" skillet here, so two large eggs is fine for one overlarge guy) with some salt and pepper.
Break the fish into large flakes, retain the milk and use to make a white sauce with a knob of butter and plain flour (no salt of course, the fish provides enough, but a sprinkle of pepper, preferably white, can be added).  Pour the eggs into the hot, buttered pan, gather a few times and let cook while you fold the fish back into the sauce and add a load of roughly chopped, crinkly leaved parsley. when the eggs are about set, spread the sauce over them and sprinkle on a layer of grated partisan cheese.  I added a little grated cheddar to this, to lessen the pungency and improve the melting effect.
Put the pan under a hot grill until the cheese is bubbling, take it out, take an (optional) photograph for your website, sprinkle on a little extra parsley if desired and serve.

Of course one delight of Wullie-nae-mates cooking is that garnishes are superfluous.  And also that the difficulties of serving a dish like this from a steep-sided skillet are hardly relevant.  For it was at this point that the advantage of a real omelette pan, with sloping sides, became apparent.  The mess on the plate was not as attractive as it had been in the pan, and the dish was briefly renamed Omelette Gordon Bennett.  So bear this in mind, those of you lucky enough to have a charming guest to serve.
And, whether in company or alone, it goes very well with a crusty bread, like a petit pain, and a crisp side-salad with a tangy vinaigrette dressing.
And of course, a good white wine, probably something smokey like fumé, or anything crisp but tasty, will go down a treat.

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Sausages in Cider

Avoiding all playground puns, this is a simple but hearty dish, your correspondent ofttimes made for his wife in Warwick in the 80s.  The tradition was continuing with la frizzada in That London, when a colleague overheard plans to cook it, and asked for a recipe.  In this context, the word ‘plans’ refers to a technique for ensuring that all the ingredients are in stock, by use of a little ritual, possibly exclusive to Yours Truly and a few inmates of high security medical facilities.  In the mind’s eye, and possibly with the aid of mime, the processes of preparation and cooking are rehearsed, with a sort of minimalist running commentary, referring only to the physical actions.
So here is presented, for the first time in decades, what the poor colleague heard, and, indeed, what was presented to him as the recipe (as well as can be recalled).  As it was of limited use, he scribbled his own notes onto it, a summary of which is appended here in square brackets.  Feel free to ignore.

chop chop chop
[peeled onion, medium chunks]
chop chop chop
[“ potato, “]
chop chop chop
[“ carrot, “]
drizzle drizzle
[little oil]
fry fry fry
[onion, soften]
fry fry fry
[sausages, brown a bit. ¿chopped up?]
fling fling
[… in all veg]
glug glug glug
[cider, to cover]
[herbs, to taste]
boil boil
simmer simmer simmer
[carrots for softness?]
glug glug glug
[glass of cider]
glug glug glug
[more cider]
munch munch munch
glug glug glug
[lots in fact]

verb.sap. — this may depend on the spuds used, but i often find that cooking in cider, with no additional water or stock, slows down the softening of the carrots and causes the potato chunks to develop a tough exterior layer (which in turn lessens the ability of the inner spud to take on flavour from the sauce).  Fructose is to blame, apparently.  The best answer I know to this is to parboil the spuds and carrots in a little water for five minutes or so, while reducing the cider in with the meat and onions.  Then add the veg and most or all of the water (reduced but also carrying starch, vitamins and flavours with it), before reducing the lot and completing the cooking.
Of course this stops it being a one-pot dish, so maybe reducing cider, adding water and veg and going from there will do the trick.

Try to use a good dry cider, not one of these oversweetened commercial aberrations.  Gwatkin is a current favourite, especially their Kingston Black.  And a hunk of rustic bread to mop up the gravy!

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Filets de limande Chaim Soutine
dabs in cream sauce with lumpfish roe: like 'filets de sole Robert Courtine', but kosher

Your solitary correspondent doesn't get that many chances to pull the stops out in the kitchen.  So when a Romanian chum of the female persuasion wanted to come visit, it seemed like an opportunity worth grabbing.  The said guest's preference for fishy food was the spur.  For some reason it triggered fading memories of cooking an elaborate dish from the pages of the trusty, if rather retro Larousse Gastronomique, called filets de sole Robert Courtine.

Looking this up on the interweb revealed one copy of the recipe — in Francelandish — plus the fact, omitted by the editors of Larousse, that the dish was named for a food writer of somewhat right-wing and antisemitic tendencies.  Now, your friendly-neighbourhood foodie here is fond of neither of those things.  Nor is he overfond of the price of caviar.  So it seemed pleasantly ironic to use lumpfish roe, which is not only cheaper but kosher (caviar being tref on account of sturgeons ain't got no scales).  The final piece of inspiration, if such it can be called, was to rename the dish after the similar sounding but much more Jewish artist, Chaim Soutine.  As well as cocking a snook at fascist foodies, this gives one the excuse to make an expressionist mess on the plate, instead of worrying about the elegance required by Larousse.

Then it turned out hard to find sole anywhere.  Schlepping the bags from Gorgie to Morningside, the nearest thing to be found was dabs (limandes in Francelandish), which seemed a fair substitute.  I got dabs, but I'm not a dabbler, as the song (now) goes.

On the way home, various other ingredients were added to the basket, including asparagus and a bottle of Vouvray and the scene was set to produce a stunning three courses and a kitchen that looked like a bomb-site.  And it might be worth warning those of a healthy-eating or heart-diseasy disposition that the following has more cholesterol in it than might seem wise for weight-watchers.  Like i give a shit.

First course, fresh asparagus with home-made hollandaise, and it was a sauce of great relief that it came out perfectly first time.  No recipe given here, one just needs to brag on such occasions.

Main event, dabs Chaim Soutine. (serves two)
Fush: sprinkle filets of dab or a similarly soleful flat fish with lemon juice and keep cool.  Two wee fillets per diner.

Sauce: chop a shallot or two very finely. sweat in butter over a low heat.
Moisten with a tablespoon or two of white wine, season and reduce.
Add about 4fl oz of soured cream, reduce by about a third and remove from heat before whisking in 75gr of butter.
Strain into a container but don't chuck the shallots.  Keep the sauce warm.

Stuffing: flake a small piece of white fish (haddock is good) into a bowl, mix with the shallots and season.
Place over a larger bowl of ice — sod that, stick the bowl in the freezer for ten minutes and get cream from the fridge — and whisk in 75gr of double cream.  And add a little lumpfish roe.

Fush assemblage and cookage:
lay the dabs skin side up and season lightly.
Spread a thin layer of the stuffing over the fish and fold in three.
Steam over samphire if you can get some, otherwise seaweed, or just greaseproof paper if that's all you got, for about seven minutes.
Place fish on plates, on top of the samphire if used.  Put a dollop of roe on each fillet.
Add a little more roe to the sauce, warm through and pour delicately over the fush.

Garnish: one option is to peel and cube some cucumber, steam gently and mix with soured cream. that wasn't what happened here.
What your correspondent did was make potato pancakes, which worked rather well … let us go back in time an hour or so …
Boil about 125gr of spuds (a king edward worked well) and leave to cool.
Work the spud through a sieve into a bowl.
Add 1½ tbs of plain flour, a tablespoon of double cream, and season lightly.
Beat in two large eggs, one at a time, to make a thick batter.
Drop spoonfuls on a hot, oiled griddle, cast iron pan or whatever, to form 3inch pancakes and cook for 3 minutes a side or until goldenised.
Keep warm until serving time.  See photo for an idea of what it can look like.  Don't feel yours has to look the same.  Smaller pancakes might be an improvement.  And rounder.  And maybe fewer.

Pud: just in case a coronary might be avoided, the meal was rounded off by macerating some fresh raspberries in triple sec, and serving with a hazelnut mousse dome from the wonderful Patisserie Jacob on Gorgie Road (now at Haymarket).  And as there was some double cream left over, well …

No flowers. Donations to the British Heart Foundation.

As mentioned above, a Vouvray did the trick with this.  All that dairy gloop demands something with a bit more body and complexity than a sauvignon or an Italian, but with enough sharpness to balance it.  You can't beat a bit of wine bullshit, can you?

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Blancs de pigeon, "Nu sur patins à roulettes"
pigeon breasts with 'Naked on Roller Skates' sauce

   In the charming Nottinghamshire market town of Newark on Trent, through which your correspondent has to pass on family visits, there is a exquisite wine shop and eatery, called Ann et Vin. The lovely and eponymous Ann Hayes sure knows her wines, and it's always a snatched pleasure on an arduous journey to sample the wine of the month and grab something to take to family or bring back to Embra.
   Now, if the wise shopper finds, in his or her local supermarket, a bottle labelled Passion Has Red Lips, said label emblazoned with a picture of a sultry american femme fatale in the doorway of her trailer (go on, google it), the normal response off the connoisseur is to smile and pass quickly by, thinking 'gimmick'.  But when someone like Ann stocks it, you know it won't be bad.  So obviously there would be no choice but to buy a bottle.
   Reader, I did so.  And very nice it is too.  It's a cab sauv/shiraz blend from Aussie winemakers Some Young Punks.  It was so nice, I looked them up online and found that they also do a shiraz/mataro (mourvedre) mix, called 'Naked on Roller Skates' (name and label come from a 1931 novel) and you might prefer not to google images for that phrase, so I've saved you the trouble.

You won't be at all surprised, dear reader, to know that your indefatigable researcher had to track down a bottle.  The original idea was to ring Ann and ask, 'do you ever get Naked on Roller Skates', but by a lucky coincidence, someone encountered in a café claimed to have seen it in Auld Reekie's own Bon Vivant's Companion on Thistle Street only a few days earlier.  And sure enough he had, and I got the last bottle.

And it's lovely and dark and rich and fruity (let's not do the 'I like my wine the way I like my women' joke).

And it deserves to be used in a rich, gamey recipe.

So here goes ...


  2 wood pigeon breasts
  cold-pressed rapeseed oil
  clove of garlic
  a few juniper berries
  black peppercorns
  rock or sea salt

  1 small onion or a shallot
  pancetta cubes
  1 glass of Some Young Punks’ Naked on Roller Skates (or any rich, shiraz-heavy blend)
  thyme and parsley
  salt and pepper

  mushrooms, preferably wild or interesting

and this is what you do ...

Crush juniper berries, garlic, sage, salt and pepper together and moisten with a little oil.
Rub over the meat and leave for half an hour minimum.

Finely chop the onion or shallot and sweat in oil until caramelised, add the pancetta and cook through.
Add the wine and reduce, adding the herbs.
Ooptionally, add a little redcurrant jelly (I happened to have some in the fridge).
Season to taste, veloute with a knob of butter and keep warm.

Heat a frying pan, moisten with oil and fry the breasts for a few minutes each side, to taste.
Set aside in a warm place.

Add butter to the pan and fry the mushrooms until softened.

Serve with cubed, salted potatoes cooked slowly in goose fat or even rapeseed oil and a touch of garlic — and something greeen; broccoli maybe. Or frozen peas if that’s easier.

And a very large glass of the wine, of course.

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Pez Espada en Amarillo
swordfish in a garlic and saffron sauce

On a cold but sunny saturday morning in November, not long before Hearts play St Mirren in Tynecastle and Scotland take on the Springboks round the corner at Murrayfield, your tireless gourmand toddles off down the road to the aforementioned Gorgie Fishmonger, noted mainly for his vast array of smoked fush, to see what's still available (but not so smoky).

The main options are an uninspiring but no doubt delicious haddock fillet or a swordfish steak, so the latter it is.  At the Clock Café a batch of hastily grabbed cookbooks is pored over, only to find that nothing, from Le repertoire de la cuisine (1914), via Keith Floyd (1988) to Bruno Loubet (1995), has any recipe at all for the meatier sharky fishes.  Let us give thanks then for the trusty Pescados y Mariscos Gaditanos (fish and seafood of cádiz), a memento of your correspondent's year in Spainland.
In fact, even that worthy tome only tells us to grill it or fry it with garlic.  But what's this? for the similarly meaty cazón (dogfish or tope shark), it has a few more interesting options, particularly this one.

One problem is the rather rusty spanish of the would be swordfish-swallower...

but here is that recipe for cazón en amarillo, adapted for pez espada(swordfish), quantities reduced for the José-sin-amigos and translated perfectly (I assume) by good old google…

Swordfish in Yellow

  swordfish slices
  clove of garlic
  one slice of whole
  a pinch of oregano
  fourth glass of white wine
  salt and olive oil

In a deep pan with oil sauté seasoned swordfish, and booked into a fountain.

In the same oil fry the slice of bread and we take, we take immediately garlic clove, peeled and chopped onion and finely told.

When the sauce is done, is pounded with croutons, a pinch of oregano, wine and a pinch of saffron.

In a saucepan place the swordfish, cover it with the paste, we add the peas, and some water, we've got about 10 minutes boiling.

You can also add peeled and chopped potatoes with mashed, put them tender and then add the fish, keeping the set a few minutes.

for those what understands the lingo, here's the original
pez espada en amarillo

  pez espada a rodajas
  diente de ajo
  un rebanada de pan entero
  una pizca de oregano
  cuarto vaso de vino blanco
  sal y aceite de oliva

En una cazuela con el fondo de aceite rehogamos el pez espada sazonado, y lo reservamos en una fuente.
En el mismo aceite freimos la rebanada de pan y las sacamos, inmediamente le echamos el diente de ajo pelado y cortado y la cebolla contada muy fina.
Cuando el sofrito está hecho, se maja junto con el pan frito, una pizca de oregano, el vino y una pizca de azafrán.
En una cazuela se coloca el pez espada, lo cubrimos con el majado, le agregamos los guisantes, y un poco de agua, lo tenemos hirviendo unos 10 minutos.
También se pueden añadir patatas peladas y troceadas con el majado, ponerlas tiernas y luego agregar el pescado, manteniendo el conjunto unos minutos.

While trying to book into a fountain and wondering what "to take, we take and finely tell" might mean, how about a rather nice Protos 2010 verdejo from Rueda (thanks to our friends at Appellation Wines)? It's what the sauce will be made with, so why not have a glass while we wait?   ¡Salud!

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Tétras Iphigénie
Grouse Iphigenea

Because Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, had angered Artemis, goddess of the hunt, by the slaying of a deer in her (no doubt symbolic) sacred grove, she did take her revenge by becalming the greek fleet in their gathering place, the port of Aulis.  This did sore upset them by throwing out their schedule for sailing on Troy and retrieving Helen, wife of Menelaus, not to mention bringing about a regime change in the Middle East.

Now among the children of Agamemnon, beside the more famous Orestes (who would eventually avenge his father’s death by slaying his mother and her lover) and Elektra (who would not get round to doing so but would get a complex named after her), was also the young and no doubt beauteous Iphigenea.  And word came to Agamemnon by however word gets from Olympus to the ears of man (soothsayers or oracles, as often as not) that the only way to appease the goddess was to sacrifice his youngest daughter.  Cue much agonising and impending tragedy.

The poor lass was conned into joining the Greek fleet by telling her and her mother that she had been promised in marriage to the celebrity hero Achilles, and, despite numerous changes of heart, waylaid letters and other dramatic ditherings, it is determined that the sacrifice should go ahead, so that Homer can write the Iliad.  Clytemnestra, the girl’s mother, is far from happy, which no doubt goes some way to explaining her willingness to take a lover and kill her husband in later plays by Aeschylus.  But for now, and for the greater Greek good, and rather than be dragged kicking and screaming in a perfectly understandable but undignified manner, Iphigenea finally goes willingly to the altar and meets her end, after which the wind begins to blow and the Greeks can sail for Troy.  So it may have been Helen’s face which launched a thousand ships, but it was Iphigenea’s death which actually got them moving.

In some versions of the tale, the girl is snatched by Artemis herself from the altar (offstage) and replaced with a handy deer.  She is taken to the peninsula of Tauris (now known as the Crimea) and becomes an immortal priestess at the temple of the goddess.  But that need not concern us here.  Let us pass swiftly on to the recipe.

And it came to pass, for personal reasons which need not trouble us here, that your gluttonous correspondent had obtained a young grouse at the same time as developing a whim to create a dish with Iphigenea in the title.  Considering the various details of the story of that ill-fated young woman (and ignoring her later redemption), the following ideas came to mind.

• Artemis, goddess of the hunt, is represented by the fact that the meat is a game bird.  There would be more logic to using venison, but the grouse was on offer; no doubt the ingredients of the recipe could be adapted for use with deer anyway.

• Iphigenea was stuffed by her fellow Greeks.  It seems reasonable to collect a few ingredients (aubergine, olives, dill, nutmeg) typical of Hellenic cuisine and make a stuffing for a boned bird, while making a red wine sauce using the carcase and other items, thickened with a touch of yoghurt.

• the sacrifice takes place on an altar, so the bird should be served on a slab of potatoes, dauphinoise or similar.

• the sacrifice causes the wind to blow. whether or not this should be represented by a flatulence-inducing bean garnish, such as the tasty sólet recipe above (under tromp l'oie), we leave to the good taste or otherwise of the reader.

So here goes…

Make a stuffing by chopping finely a small aubergine (or a portion of a larger one), some streaky bacon and a shallot or small onion.  Fry these in olive oil until all softened.
Stick a slice of bread in a blender, reduce to crumbs, then add the contents of the pan and a few pitted olives (kalamata marinaded in fennel and garlic are good) and blitz to a coarse paste with some ground cinnamon, and some rosemary.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bone a young grouse (slice carefully either side of the breastbone and work from there), reserving the bones.  Reform the bird round the stuffing, or as much as required, and fix the shape with small sacrificial swords — or just cocktail sticks.  Season the outside, cover with slices of streaky bacon, and place in the oven at 180ºC for about half an hour.

Fry some chopped onion, bacon, and any other little bits (what we cooks call a mirepoix) of veg you have lying around, preferably Mediterranean and aromatic (fennel is good but don't overdo it) with the broken-up carcase of the grouse (with giblets if possible).  Deglaze with a splash of red wine vinegar, then add a glass of red wine and reduce by half. sprinkle in some parsley and/or coriander, and simmer for a few minutes to bring out all the flavours.
Press the sauce and carcase through a fine seive to extract maximum flavour.  Add water if too dense (it shouldn't need any stock), then stir in a spooful of redcurrant jelly, if you have any, and season to taste.  For an extra greek feel, thicken with a dash of strained yoghurt (otherwise just glaze by whisking in a knob of butter).

The altar is made of a wee ramekin or cocotte of dauphinoise potatoes.  Would that a rectangular one was available, but a round one will have to do, here in the Abode of Stone.  Thinly sliced spud is simmered in garlicky cream for a few minutes, layered tightly into the dish, which has been rubbed with more garlic and buttered.  Some of the cream is poured in and the pot is placed in the oven at 180ºC for half an hour or until browned on top – pretty much the same time and heat as the grouse in fact.  Tipped out and turned over, it makes the slab for the poor grouse’s sacrifice.

Assemble the dish by placing the grouse on the altar of spud, skewered symbolically through the heart with the cocktail stick of vengeance, and pour the blood-red sauce over and around.  As has been hinted, for the sacrifice to raise a wind, it could be served with a bean concoction, but, for the more tasteful, a sprig of watercress or a few green beans would do the job far better.

This (and the occasion it was created for) demands a sturdy and preferably fine wine.  The fact that there's a bottle of Chateau Palmer 1989 in the Abode of Stone reflects prescient buying in the moneyed days more than present wealth, which rarely runs beyond supermarket plonk.  Under normal conditions and for less special occasions there are many heavy Mediterranean reds that will probably do the job a lot better.

To an absent friend ...

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Noisettes of Lamb Hogget Reform

I don’t like beetroot, me.
My grandmother always seemed to be boiling the evil roots, filling her house with a thick, gooey stench and that has seriously put me off the very look of the stuff for life.  Having said that, I have been fooled into eating and enjoying the odd stick of fried beetroot, now that it’s gone all trendy, and maybe one day I’ll risk a sip of cold chlodnik.

But in the meantime, I was very relieved when I looked up Reform sauce in my Larousse Gastonomique to discover that it didn’t originally contain beetroot.  The recipe as invented by Alexis Soyer at London’s Reform Club (of which I am apparently an affiliate member — must drop in some time), was based on a poivrade sauce with the addition of boiled egg, gherkin, tongue, mushroom and truffle, all sliced up.  Betroot seems to be a more recent ‘innovation’, or should one say ‘degradation’?

Anyway, Lamb Cutlets Reform is another of those classic recipes invented on the spur of the moment with whatever was to hand, the club ranking alongside the battlefield of Marengo, the Mexican convent which gave us mole poblana and the mythical Neapolitan brothel where some say spaghetti alla puttanesca originated.

This version greatly simplifies the production of the poivrade (but would be improved by doing it properly, I suppose), and uses some great hogget noisettes I got from Annanwater Organics, taking full advantage of the current trend for tastier hogget (sheep between one and two years) and mutton — this tangy and busy sauce is less likely to overpower an older sheep. and these cuts tend to be more economical too.

So, to make the sauce …

Soften a mirepoix (wee cubes) of vegetables — onion, carrot, mushroom — in butter, remove veg and add some flour to make a roux.  Make up a cupful of stock — I’m using a lamb stock cube; I have no shame.
Add white wine and tarragon or wine vinegar (I’d go for about a glassful in all, 1/3 vinegar, 2/3 wine); simmer until reduced by half.
Return the veg, add most of the stock and simmer for at least ¼ hour.
Add a couple of crushed peppercorns. simmer a few more minutes (not too long after the peppercorns are added).
Strain, add a few more tablespoons of the stock, along with thin slices of hard-boiled egg white, gherkin and tongue. and some beetroot if you really must. unless you have a truffle to hand, adding a few drops of truffle oil will give it a boost.

Meanwhile, the dead sheep …

If you’re feeling lazy, just pan fry chops or cutlets or cuts of fillet, like my noisettes.
Otherwise, you need to make a coating for the chunks by mixing some breadcrumbs.  Luckily the kitchen in the abode of stone is equipped with a hand blender with a small choppy chamber, in which I will put a crustless slice of white bread, a small piece of cooked ham and some parsley, before giving a good whizz (I love these technical terms).
Season the crumbs with a touch of salt and pepper and beat an egg.
Dip the pieces of hogget in the egg and then coat in the crumb mix.  Fry for about three minutes a side until the coating is golden and serve with the sauce.
It goes best with a dollop of redcurrant jelly (which I happen to have in the fridge), and some dauphinoise potatoes with a garnish of watercress.  But this is the Billy-no-mates cookbook after all, so I shall probably boil up a sprig of broccoli and mash a wee spud or twa.  It's already a lot more work than I put in to the rest of the week's suppers put together.

But it won't be too much effort to pour a glass of good red wine of course.  A Bordeaux would be traditional, but I have some Rioja to finish …

[Another one of those footnotes to history: I have now eaten this dish at the Reform Club on Pall Mall, as an affiliate member, la di dah, and it was excellent, though I think I do the sauce better — and their idea of a 'julienne', is my idea of a 'lego brick' — and it has bloody beetroot in it]

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'Off-key' Lime pie

The key lime pie is an American dessert dish that has become rather popular this side of the pond, not least with your overweight correspondent.
Having said that, it's unlikely that he has ever had a key lime pie.  The key lime (citrus aurantiifolia) is a version of that fruit grown in the Florida Keys which give it its name, and not grown in sufficient numbers to export from that state, much less the country.  The lime we know well is the Persian lime (citrus x latifolia), greener and even a little less acidic, by all accounts, than its American cousin.  But 'Persian lime pie' just doesn't have that ring to it.

Ironically, the 'Persian' lime was developed as a seedless, thorn-free variety in America, while the 'key' lime originated in South East Asia.  But that's more than enough horticultural history.  We're here to cook.

This version of the dish takes pretty much the standard recipe you'll find anywhere and attempts to fiddle slightly with the flavours, perhaps finding a tanginess that the Persian lime can't give on its own, and zinging up the base a bit too.  In keeping with modern practice, it's a cooked pie.  A reaction, called 'souring', between the condensed milk and the acid juices would cause the mixture to set naturally.  Tradition has it that it was made on boats by sponge fishermen, stuck on ovenless boats for days on end with tinned milk and supplies of limes.  But in these health-and-safety-mad days people fear things like salmonella in their eggs, and lime juice don't kill that bugger off.  So cooked it is.

The base …
Get your oven warming up to 180°C, gas 4.
Take 4oz/120g digestive biscuits and 2oz/60g ginger nuts, put them in a bag or wrap them in a teatowel and smack and trundle them with a rolling pin until reduced to fine crumbs.
Melt 4oz/100g of butter over gentle heat and mix with the crumbs in a bowl, then use the mix to line a 23cm flan tin with a loose bottom (I know the feeling).  Press down well and work up the sides.
Put the tin on a baking tray and place in the oven for about ten minutes, while you do the next bit

The mix …
Take four limes and a small yellow grapefruit.
Finely grate the zest of the limes into a bowl and then halve and juice them into another container.  Add the juice of half the grapefruit.  To the zest, add the yolks of 4 medium or 3 large eggs (if you want to do a meringue topping, the whites won't get wasted, but look elsewhere for cooking instructions).  Whisk briskly for a couple of minutes until the eggs thicken up (you can use an electric thingy but it's good exercise and therapy to use muscle power).
Now add a tin of condensed milk.  They seem to come in 397gr tins round here, and that's about right.  Whisk for another four minutes.
Pour in the juice cocktail, whisk it up to a smooth mixture and add to the flan tin.  Put it back in the oven, assuming you don't want to be authentic and brave, for twenty minutes.

Leave it to cool completely and then chill until ready to eat.  A slice of lime and a dollop of cream, yoghurt or crème fraiche makes it look (and taste) even better.

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Persian birdbits cooked in walnut and pomegranate sauce

As the name suggests, this is originally a pheasant dish and if you can get a pheasant breast or two, or, if you're cooking for two, a whole bird, it should be great.  At the other end of the scale it can be done with chicken, but the sauce can rather overwhelm the flesh.  I first did it with a Duck breast and it was as yummy to eat as it was easy to make.  Since then pheasant breasts and the like have proved as delish, and are now easier to find.

So, for one diner, cut a pheasant breast into two or three chunks and season with salt and pepper. Fry them in butter (with a little olive oil, skin side first if there is skin) for a minute or two on each side to brown slightly. Set aside to rest while you make the sauce in the same pan.
Very finely chop a wee onion (preferably a red one) and fry it (add a little more butter if needed) until it goes brownish.
Stir in an ounce or so of ground walnuts.  I prefer to pummel a few whole kernels in a mortar, to retain some nutty chunks, but most of it needs to be pretty well pulverised to thicken the sauce, so feel free to whizz it in a blender or even use ready-ground (though the flavour may be less intense).

Add a couple of fluid ounces of pomegranate juice and a similar amount of light stock or water (using the juice alone leads to an overpoweringly rich sauce, as your correspondent and food tester has discovered!).  Add some finely chopped (or dried) parsley and season with salt and pepper.
(The 1970s book I used to derive this recipe, Claudia Roden's excellent work, suggests lemon juice and sugar as an alternative, but, since the pomegranate has now been elevated to 'superfood' marketing status, it's rather easier to obtain and a bottle of the juice lasts ages, so use the real thing).

Simmer the sauce for a bit to thicken, stirring regularly.
Check the flavour and adjust the seasoning.
Place the meat in the sauce, turning to coat, then cover and simmer slowly for ten minutes or so (you could do this more slowly in a tagine).

Sprinkle with chopped parsley and walnut bits, and serve on basmati rice (even better, a fragrant, buttery pilaff. with cloves, coriander and raisins), with a side salad and a cold beer. If you squeezed a fresh pomegranate for the juice (use less stock), you can sprinkle on pomegrante pieces too.

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Mole Poblano
turkey in chocolate and chilli sauce

Your friendly neighbourhood cookery maven has long been fascinated by recipes created by the mother of invention (necessity, not frank zappa).  In fact the idea of opening a restaurant or at least writing a cookbook called serendipity has often flitted across his otherwise vacuous mind.

The problem is, he can only think of the four already mentioned in the recipe for lamb reform.

So here's the recipe for another of those.

Back in the day, the 1970s in fact, the author's mother gave him a coffee-table type of recipe book, called Cooking and Eating Around the World (MacDonald, 1976), more about garish illustrations and foreign-Johnny cultural quirks than about the recipes; or so you might have assumed.  As it is, it may be the one book in his collection that has contributed more than one or two dishes to his regular repertoire de la cuisine.  Italian minestrone, French onion soup, Russian varenyky, Turkish imam bayildi, and so on around the globe.  And at least two dishes from Mexico: the simple mince, olives and almonds fry-up called picadillo, and the sumptuous national dish (not chilli, that's Texan, dammit!), mole poblano.

So, when the maternal relative came to vist and asked what would be for tea (as we Nottnm folk call dinner), she was told that turkey in chocolate sauce was on the menu.  In response, she asked if there were any good restaurants nearby.  But she tried the dish and loved it so much she often asked for it on state visits.  And trying it again for the first time in a decade or two in July 2014, reminded yours truly how delicious it is, and allayed all fears that it would be impractical to cook in Billy-no-mates portions.

Mole comes from the Nahuatl word for a sauce (like 'curry' in Tamil) and poblano means from the pueblos or villages; so I guess the name means 'people's sauce'.  Doesn't really do it justice, but then escargot sounds more appetising than 'snails', n'est ce pas?

The story (or one of the many legends) goes that a convent in Puebla de los Angeles got a surprise visit from the archbishop, or had to provide an unplanned feast after a civil war battle, or just couldn't get through to the local takeaway for a pizza.  Whatever, they weren't equipped for a posh banquet, but (some say after angelic guidance), they dispatched a turkey or two from the yard and gathered whatever they had in the way of herbs and spices, stale bread, fruit and nuts, and ground them up to make a sauce.  The result used between twenty and thirty ingredients (here reduced to a mere fourteen), plus rice or tortillas, salad and of course booze, and was utterly delicious.

A few Mexican eateries in the UK have it on the menu, even one here in Embra, but it is so easy for the chocolate to dominate.  It absolutely should not taste like some stewed meat with a sweet bar of Bourneville melted over it, as was once experienced in That London.  But follow this recipe, varying the flavourings to taste and mood, and maybe even your mother will be impressed.

The recipe for people with family or friends uses whole turkeys, jointed, and two or three can be well fed on a large drumstick.  But a single person, who doesn't want loneliness and misery to rule out all the sybaritic pleasures life has to offer, can easily whip one up with some diced turkey available in many outlets for remarkably little cash.

This is what ye need:
  turkey pieces, or a turkey breast slice chopped up
    (it works ok with chicken but the white meat in particular is easily overpowered by the sauce)
  oil — or lard – well, it was a 1970s book
  about an ounce of the darkest, plainest chocolate you can find
    (your correspondent has a supply of 99% cocoa buttons, two of which are perfect for one serving,
     but has made it quite well with 75% plain chocolate)
  salt and black pepper

  paste mix:
    a clove of garlic chopped
    a wee onion, chopped
    flaked red chilli pepper, to taste or tolerance
    a goodly pinch of fennel seeds
    a pinch of ground allspice
    about a teaspoonful of sesame seeds
    a wee handful of raisins
    a wee handful of chopped blanched almonds
    a ripe tomato
    toast (yes, half a slice of dry toast; you can probably leave the crust on too)

And this is what ye do with it all:
Put the turkey pieces in cold, salted water to cover, in a small saucepan, and bring to the boil.  Simmer for about ten minutes, drain, and reserve the stock.

Now for a wee trick your correspondent discovered by trial and error: add the chocolate to the warm stock and whizz it up in a blender or with a whisk.  For some reason, this gives a more intense chocolate hit, without overpowering any of the other flavours (especially if you like as much chilli as the Mexicans).

Now fry the drained turkey pieces in the fat until browned all over.  Place in a clean saucepan and keep the oil in the pan.

Make the paste by sticking all the ingredients into a wee blender or mortar, and blending thoroughly, adding a little more water if necessary, to give a coarse puree.  Fry this for five minutes, stirring all the time.  Then stir in the chocolate-flavoured stock, stirring continuously, to give a medium-thickish sauce.  Add salt and pepper to taste, then pour over the turkey pieces.  Bring to a boil and simmer long enough for all the wondrous flavours to blend to an indistinguishable but spicy mush.  Stir in a few whole raisins and flaked almonds if you wish, sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds to bring a vague feeling of festivity to your otherwise drab and meaningless existence, and eat with rice or tortillas and beer.  The lime in the neck of the bottle is optional, and it's not as if anybody's watching.

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Muc xào cài chua
Vietnamese squid with sour mustard greens

Here in this West End corner of Edinburgh, we are now spoiled by the presence of two good places to enjoy Vietnamese food.  I already reviewed Pho Vietnam House, run by the delightful Jodie Xyzptlk Ngurgle (or something like that).  Now her mother, Le Giang Tran, has started doing daytime food in her art gallery opposite Haymarket station.  Go to both and contrast the styles from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

But your wandering gourmet guru also has fond memories of Café Nam, in That London's Upper Street, where the food style was different again, more home than street.  And one dish in particular stuck in his memory.  Yes, this one, wasn't that obvious enough?

So a little googling found the name and then more searching found authentic Vietnamese recipe pages, rather than Westernised versions.

Problem is he don't speak da lingo.  The hilarious side effect is that online translators ain't so good with it either.  I leave you to work out what 'hit the jackpot' might mean with respect to squid cookery.  I assume that 'cut flowers contractual terms' somehow means scoring the back of the ink (ie squid) in the diamond pattern that makes the pieces curl into pleasing shapes in the heat.  Apart from that, you're on your own ...

- 200gr ink
- 100g pickled
- 1 red bell pepper fruit
- 1 green bell pepper fruit
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Spices: 1 teaspoon soy sauce boat, 1 teaspoon oyster sauce, salt, sugar, cooking oil

to implement:
- Wash the peppers, red, cut into bite size pieces
- Clean the squid, cut small pieces, cut flowers contractual terms
- Wash the pickled, chopped
- Onion cut into cubes
- Hit the jackpot ink, pickled
- Heat the oil and non-aromatic garlic, for all the ingredients into sautéed, seasoned to taste

I added a few thin slivers of fresh red chilli.  The quantities can be scaled up or down, depending on how many are eating, and whether it's the only dish or part of a banquet.  In what passes for the real world here, one squid tube, half a pepper, half an onion and half a pack of 'pickled' (ie sour mustard greens, available from Asian stores) is about right for the lonely diner.

Goes well with boiled fragrant rice and a dry white wine

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Rugby Balls
Polpette 'Italia v Galles' (lamb & leek meatballs on tagliatelle)

Your overfed rugby correspondent was wondering what to eat on the final, 'super' Saturday of the 2016 Six Nations tournament. England were already champions and heading for a Grand Slam, partly thanks to a woeful first half performance by the Welsh lads the previous week. But it was still possible to don the red jersey, pour a glass of (Scottish) beer (Stewart's Radical Road) and cheer on Cymru against the plucky Azzuri in Caerdydd's rebranded Principality Stadium.

And to plan a suitable repast(a). This may or may not be it…

°  Take some minced lamb, a finely chopped leek and onion, and a slice of wholemeal bread with the crusts removed
°  Soak the bread in water and squeeze nearly dry
°  Fling the meat, bread and about half the leek and onion into a blender
°  Add an optional clove of garlic and a compulsory pinch of rosemary
°  Add salt and pepper to taste; whizz to mix
°  Shape the mixture into small balls (oval of course) and roll them in flour
°  Fry in olive oil until browned a bit: set aside on kitchen paper

°  Sweat the remaining leek and onion with garlic in the oil
°  Add a splash of white wine and reduce
°  Add half a tin of chopped plum tomatoes, some oregano, salt and pepper
°  Add the meatballs and cook through as the sauce reduces; check seasoning

°  Boil a portion of tagliatelle
°  When the sauce is finished, remove the meatballs
°  Stir in a spoonful of cream or crème fraîche
°  Put your balls back (if you have a scrum half handy, let him or her do this for authenticity)
°  Plonk the meatballs and sauce on the pasta, in a general ruck
°  Finish with some parsley and grated pecorino (or parmesan, but pecorino does come from sheep)

Serve with crusty bread, salad and a red wine (I had some very nice Rosso di Puglia).

And there you have it: a taste of Italy, blended with a taste of Wales. Contrapuntal notes of leek and rosemary, playing off against the oregano and garlic, and all that sort of rot...

But don't carry the metaphor too far: unlike in the game, the Welsh must not be allowed to overwhelm the Italians!

Mynhau! (enjoy!) Cymru am byth!

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Lapin de Tocqueville
wild rabbit with pears in perry

When our friend Alison booked a wing of the Chateau de Tocqueville in Normandy for her family holiday a decade or so ago, she hadn’t realised quite how much room she would have available. When she offered us the use of one of the spare bedrooms, we accepted, with grateful visions of seafood lunches in exquisite harbourside bistros in Barfleur and gutbusting dinners in the auberges betwen there and Cherbourg. Eating out every day, because we could guarantee prices far lower and quality far higher than we could ever get in Blighty, was not only on the menu, it was the menu.

But when we arrived and saw the small but delightful kitchen with its glittering array of esoteric equipment, I began to change my mind. And when we visited the local market the next day, the change was complete.

Now I must confess that before arriving in Normandy I knew nothing whatsoever about Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59). For any equally benighted reader, he was one of the great historians, author of De la Démocratie en Amerique and L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution, the latter having been written in the very chateau where I, in my ignorance, now stood and thought of strange things to do with globe artichokes.

Tocqueville's great-great-grandniece, and last of the noble family line, Marie-Henriette Tocqueville (who died in 1994), met us and showed us the wing which she let out to holidaymakers, the pond with its lonely swan, the huge old pigeonry (home now to a pair of kestrels and their young, whose first flights we witnessed) and the equally huge, unfriendly german shepherd dog who made every short walk from car to chateau door such a tense and thrilling experience.

But to the market. Smaller items of meat still on the hoof or claw, vegetables that started in size and quality where most British produce leaves off but at prices that wouldn’t buy you a globe artichoke here, even with its leaves off.

Then there was the rabbit. The only one I saw that wasn’t still wearing its coat and running round in it. It lay rather forlornly on the stall at the end of the day, a couple of equally naked chickens keeping it company from a respectful distance. I like rabbit and I was beginning to think of some rustic stew like mother used to make. The farmer’s wife came straight from cliché land, rotund and rosy-cheeked, and she obviously thought I came from the same place, under the heading of stupid English townie tourist. Indeed, my French is pretty merde, as she could obviously tell from the way I said, Combien?
C’est un lapin, m’sieur, she warned me, obviously under the impression I wanted a chicken.
— Er … oui … combien le lapin?
She looked at me suspiciously, concluded I hadn’t understood the word and had simply repeated it under the impression it meant chicken. She had an idea. She repeated the word again but this time with her hands sticking up at the sides of her head like ears and hopping back and forth behind her stall.
Oui, oui. Lapin. Rabbit. D’accord, I said, doing likewise myself and causing much amusement to the farmers wife, my companions and quite a few villagers.

One of whom ran another stall which had on it one large earthenware pot, full of … what?
Crème fraiche, m’sieur.

Wonderful, I thought, in another burst of ignorance. That will be nice with some fruit. Well, maybe for some but I soon discovered that Normandy crème fraiche is a lot sourer than its Hampstead namesake. And I also discovered that poire de Normandie, the local perry, is far from being a medium-sweet drink. The one I bought stabbed the back of the throat like thorns (apt, as I now know the perry pear variety is known in the UK as a 'thorn') and was not really drinkable, by us iggerant townies, any road.

But from such mistakes are great discoveries made. So …

Lapin de Tocqueville for four


  • 1 rabbit, preferably wild, chopped up.
  • 2 large pears, not too ripe, William or Comice, peeled, cored and cut into 6 or 8
  • ¼ kg onions sliced thinly
  • 1 bottle poire de normandie or Thorn or similar perry
  • 2 tbs crème fraiche, preferably Norman (or soured cream, if preferred)
  • bouquet garni of thyme, parsley and sage
  • white wine vinegar
  • whole grain mustard (eg Meaux)
Dust the rabbit joints with seasoned flour. In a casserole or similar pot, fry the joints until lightly browned in vegetable oil or lard (but olive oil is too southern). Remove from pot and deglaze with a little wine vinegar.

Place a layer of onion on the bottom of the pan and then lay half the rabbit pieces on that. Then place a layer of pear slices on that. Dollop on (as we say up north) a couple of teaspoons of grainy mustard and then repeat the three layers to use up the ingrdients. Place the herbs on top.

This recipe appeared in The Hampstead Cookbook, along with recipes by such luminaries as Tom Conti and Doris Lessing (so I've been in the same book as a Nobel laureate!), where I added that:
    Part of the inspiration for this dish was that we couldn’t drink the Perry but we could cook with it. That led to the idea of using pears. And the fact that crème fraiche is now common in Blighty and, even more surprisingly, Poire de Normandie can now be bought from Hampstead’s very own La Reserve on Heath Street means we can present this recipe to the good burghers of NW3 without fear of frustration.
Since then I've discovered from tasting ciders in the Southern Marches, that the rare Thorn perry pear makes a similarly sharp (but often more potable) drink, and that it can even be obtained online from the lovely people at Gwatkin Cider of Herefordshire, if you live at such a ridiculous distance from civilisation as Edinburgh. Just don't use a commercial perry or even worse a so-called 'pear cider'. Just don't buy crap like that at all, OK?

So where was I? Oh yes, pour the booze into the pot, put a lid on it and stick it in a medium oven for and hour or so until the rabbit is tender.

Remove from the oven, take the bouquet out, pour off the juice and thicken it with the creme fraiche. Pour the sauce back into the pot and serve. It goes well with mashed or baked potatoes and broccoli. And very well (I recently found) with a few glasses of well-chilled Fetzer’s Californian Viognier (available at Oddbins).

If you wan’t to be dead posh, the recipe can be adapted somewhat. Take the thigh bone out of a leg of rabbit (one per diner). Fry finely chopped shallot and make into a stuffing with chopped pear, sage and thyme, salt and pepper. Stuff the rabbit leg and wrap in Bayonne ham or pancetta, and tie with string. Cook in oil in a hot skillet for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Serve on potato gallettes (pommes Maxim) with a sauce made from shallots, stock and Normandy perry, flavoured with herbs and mustard, thickened with crème fraiche — and upgrade the wine to Condrieu.

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Berenjenas con queso
aubergines with cheese

So your gluttonous correspondent has been getting into simple pasta dishes, like puttanesca and the delicious Sicilian alla Norma, but the latter sometimes leave him with more aubergine (eggplant) than he knows what to do with.

So, as he was planning an assortment of tapas-style dishes, he looked in his trusty old Spanish cookbook under berenjenas. And he found not only a recipe, but also a reference to a Sixteenth Century poet, who wrote a paean to his favourite dish (in both senses of the word).

What else was there to do but cook the aubergine in this style (quite different from the Italian melanzane alla parmigiana), along with patatas pobres, pimientos asados and pinchos morunos and a splash of aioli?

What else he did was to sit up until 4am translating the bloody poem!

Three Things
after Tres Cosas by Baltasar del Alcázar (Andalucia, 1530-1606)

Three things alone there are that please
and spur me to love's orison:
my darling Inés, good jamón,
and aubergines with cheese.

This Inés, readers, 'twas for sure
who held me in such thrall,
that made me shrink from all
those things that were not her.
I spent one senseless year of ease,
till, just before she 'let me go',
she served jamón iberico
and aubergines with cheese.

To Inés the palm, the crown, the prize;
the name and voice melodious —
but comparisons are odious
and trite to my sad eyes.
Taste, vision, meaning, all of these —
I find no clear distinctión
between sweet Inés and jamón,
and aubergines with cheese.

Oft Inés would wax lyrical,
about the jamón Aracene,
tetilla cheese and aubergine
an old-time Spanish miracle.
And so the wise man clearly sees,
when judging free from passión,
these things are one, Inés, jamón,
and aubergines with cheese.

At least if now she sees my favours
bestowed on these delights
sweet Inés might then spend her nights
competing with these flavours.
I hope it brings her no unease
to see just how content I am
with plates of pata negra ham
and aubergines with cheese.


If you're interested in the recipe, you simmer sliced aubergine in a little light stock with a few slivers of onion.
Lightly toast a few blanched almonds and put them in a blender with enough of the stock to make a runny paste.
Arrange the aubergine and onion in a dish, season, and pour the paste over it.
Cover with slices of meltable cheese: tetilla would probably be great, but cheddar, gruyère, Monterey Jack — anything mild and meltable would do ... go on – experiment!
Top with a little grated nutmeg and a layer of grated parmesan, and bake in a 180°C oven for 20 mins.
Serve with slices of jamón iberico and of course, if she's around, the lovely Inés.

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